The One Longed For And Yet Present

The One Longed For And Yet Present

The longing of God’s chosen people fills the Old Testament.

For generations they are waiting for God to redeem them, to restore their nation, and to enter into a new and lasting covenant with them. They tell their children and their children’s children about His mighty works and the promises God has made to them. While they don’t know how these promises will be fulfilled, they trust that they will be.

I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work and muse on all your mighty deeds….You are the God who works wonders, who have manifested your might among the peoples. With your arm you redeemed your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.

Psalm 77:11-12, 14-15

For years I’ve viewed the birth of Christ as the end to their waiting and a fulfillment of their longing. All that they were waiting for was there, wrapped in flesh, lying in a manger. The King they were waiting for had come. We celebrate Christmas with that in mind: the Hope of the Nations is born and so we rejoice.

Yet this year I was filled with a recognition that one of the most important moments in human history happened and yet virtually nobody knew about it at the time. Similar to the quiet yet monumental yes at Mary’s Annunciation, the birth of Jesus took place in a relatively hidden way. Angels told some shepherds and wise men arrived from the east, yet as a whole, Israel was unaware of what was happening in their midst.

On the day after Christ’s nativity, they awoke….and didn’t know that anything was different than the week before. They still longed for a king and awaited the redemption of Israel. Yet He was there, the little King, already laboring to save them. When they gathered in the synagogue to pray, recalling the promises and the works of God, they did not know that the incarnate God was with them. As they provided work for St. Joseph, they did not know that it was the God-man who crafted and created alongside him.

Christ was living and working in the world and yet the world did not know it.

For thirty years, Christ was hidden. He lived the ordinary life of a son, a neighbor, a faithful Jew, and a carpenter. People laughed, worked, ate, prayed, talked, and experienced life with the God-man and did not know it. The One an entire nation longed for washed His feet to remove the dust, ate His mother’s food, and slept deeply after a day of laboring.

He was there, known and yet unknown.

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Gratitude for Being Unfulfilled

I realized that I should be grateful for my frustrations and unfulfilled desires.  When I present my experiences teaching to some of my friends, I feel as though it is an endless litany of dislikes, discouragement, and downfalls.  I don’t mean for it to be that way but I am unable to paint a purely rosy picture of a profession that I find difficult and stretching.  Yet I realized that in some ways it is very good that I am not content with it all.  I desire to do better, to improve my teaching, to reach out to my students.  And while this means that I am not a perfect teacher it also means that I desire to do better than I am doing.  Of course there is the necessary reminder that one shouldn’t always be frustrated and unfulfilled.  But I desire such great things for my students and their souls that I am far too weak to deliver on my own.  Thus, the tension.  I long for greatness but fall into petty worries.  I search for fulfillment but am left unsatisfied.  I will never be completely fulfilled on earth.  Only in Heaven will I find fulfillment for all of my good desires.  Nevertheless, I yearn for this fulfillment, for this unobtainable perfection.  We are trying to get back to something we once had, to something for which we were created.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”  –C.S. Lewis Till We Have Faces

Such beauty!  Anyway, the point of all of this is that it is alright to not feel fulfilled and satisfied.  We live in an imperfect world within an imperfect society.  There is much to see in the world that needs change and transformation.  My students will be imperfect because they are human and I will be imperfect because I, too, am a human.  We are deeply flawed.  Ah, but not beyond redemption!  I shouldn’t glory in my misery or disappointments.  Nevertheless, I don’t need to attempt to make myself believe that I should be 100% fulfilled and satisfied.  There is conversion that needs to take place in my heart, I am a pilgrim traveling down the path of life, and I have not yet reached my eternal home.

The task of evangelizing the modern world is not easy.  It isn’t easy because we are asking them to accept truth that is difficult to accept.  Because we are telling people that perhaps the best thing for them is a life that includes suffering and painful growth and sacrifice.  Yet I am thankful that the Lord has called me into this mission field and desires me try to reach His flock.  It isn’t because I’m perfect–because He knows better than any my imperfections–but perhaps simply because I have this desire for His will to be done on earth, a longing for Heaven, and a knowledge that without Him, I am nothing.