Thankful for the Longing

By Debbie Shope

I recently was offered an old, beat-up aluminum pitcher which I was happy to accept. My husband, not so much 🙂 As I admired my new acquisition, I looked at the bottom — why, I don’t know — and discovered it was 99% aluminum. Not bad, eh? But this triggered a familiar line of reflection for me. Why isn’t anything 100%? If you are old enough to remember, even Ivory Soap — the purest of the pure — is only 99-44/100%. And apparently Taco Bell has been in a bit of a fix over how “beefy” the beef is in their tacos. Why is life always a mix?

I experienced this when I visited my family over the weekend (hence, the aluminum pitcher). I love my siblings and their families. It was a good time to catch up and hear the latest joys and concerns of those I hold dear. But, as is usually the case with families, it is never that simple. I left with a heart full of joy for having shared briefly in their lives with a fair amount of fun and laughter, but also with a heart heavy with the burdens they bear. So I ask, why does it have to be so hard? And I tell myself I will do a better job of keeping in touch and hopefully being able to bless and serve them, even if from a distance, but I never come close to doing 100% of what I would like to do. Unfortunately, that is true of every facet of my life — my work, my relationships, my faith. None of these are near what I would like them to be. Apparently God gets this: He has compassion on us because “he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103) And Jesus tells us that the world is difficult — we will have troubles (John 16). So what is my problem?

Somewhere deep inside of me there is a desire for life to be perfect. And yet, it isn’t. Or if it is perfect for a time — those longed-for and savored “Norman Rockwell moments” — it is always fleeting. I know this and accept it: we live in a broken world, and we are broken people. All of us and all of creation has been marred by sin. We will not know perfection until Christ returns and we become like Him and live in the new world He has created. And yet . . .

I have moments when it makes me angry. Why can’t it be all good? And that is where I see part of my problem — my definition of good. When I say “good” I usually mean free of struggle or conflict or pain or sorrow — in other words, easy. I don’t think that is what God means when He says that He alone is good.

There are other moments when the imperfection just brings up an intense longing. And this is where I understand more. I am not made for this world, and this world is not the way that God originally intended it to be for me either. A free and easy, “perfect” life in an imperfect world could never measure up to that perfection that God originally intended or what he still promises to bring to fruition. If I am 100% content in this broken world, in this life, it would still only ever be a fraction of what awaits me. Perfectly broken is still broken. So I am thankful for the questions, for the struggle, and for the disappointment with what this life offers me and with what I have to offer in return. I will embrace the longing, for it is sweeter than any satisfaction this world has to offer.