Posted by: jevcat | May 3, 2010

Varieties of Longing

“How dear to me is your dwelling, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God!”  (Psalm 84:1)

I love that psalm and identify with it, but I felt a twinge when it turned up as the evening psalm on Sunday.

We didn’t make it to church this week, mostly due to the difficulties of getting there on a day when the Five Borough Bike Tour closes off the main streets between our apartment and the ferry and completely discombobulates the ferry schedule.  Not to mention the security aftermath of a failed Times Square bomb attack the day before (most of the bomb-sniffer dogs always in the ferry terminals are aggressive to service dogs, so even on a good day it can be awkward and uncomfortable for my Beloved and his service dog).  The combination of day-after tension and the bike tour made the whole prospect seem unmanageable.  But I still missed being there.

It baffles me when people act as though the fact that I show up at church most Sundays represented some virtue on my part.  It is difficult to make them understand I do it not out of obligation or duty or discipline — with me, it’s definitely not discipline — but because it’s where I want to be, and, in some ways, where I need to be.  Church is, in many ways, “home”, and it feeds, restores, and nurtures me.  What I feel when I skip it, no matter how valid or enjoyable the reason, is not guilt but longing.

The Hebrew scriptures are filled with longing:  longing for a homeland; longing for justice; longing, from exile, for Jerusalem; and always, everywhere, longing for God — and God’s longing for us.

God longs for us, we are told, as a lover longs for the beloved, as one longs for one’s spouse.  I always thought I “got” this, but I’ve come to appreciate it on a more visceral level in recent years.

Four years ago, after a gap of 33 silent years, my childhood sweetheart and I were re-united and, among the un-anticipated benefits has been a deepening understanding of our relationship to God and the love-longing that underlies it.

My mother always said marriage wasn’t just about sex and intellectually I understood but not emotionally.  Reading Song of Songs could be titillating but, while I could produce theological justification for it, it could occasionally “weird me out” just bit anyway.

It may still.  But the notions of unspoken, shared understanding, quiet intimacy, passionate desire for the presence of the beloved, delight in the beloved, and of a bond against which death is powerless seem new and clear as a spring morning — and as filled with wonder.  Julian of Norwich (whose day is coming up May 8th) had it right:  “Love was his meaning.”  I always knew it; I just didn’t know it.


  1. Oh, go ahead and break my heart! I have always felt much as you do, about church; the revelations of human love (as a sneak peek at the Divine sort). I wish it could be easier for you to get to your church home…

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