What do you want for Christmas?
When my age could be captured by a single digit, the question would take weeks to answer. The pages of the Christmas catalogues from Eaton’s and Sears would become ragged from my harrowing. The request could only be for one toy. A roll of Lifesavers, some chocolate, a Mandarin orange, socks and other useful, but boring things, would fill the stocking.
So the roots of the heresy began to form. If we had more money, we could buy more things and then Christmas would be even happier! When the children came, I inflated the heresy. If we had more money, we could buy them more things and then they would have an even better Christmas!
This heresy encircled my worldview like ivy wrapping around a Douglas Fir. Not only, like all heresies, did it fail to deliver on its promise but, left unchecked, could kill the spirit and weaken the soul.
Recently, as I have cut back the ensnaring “desire” criteria, I have become intrigued by another question.
For what do I most yearn this Christmas?
The shift hinges on the distinction between wanting and yearning.
With little effort I can generate a list of things and experiences I want: rich, deep chocolate embedded with fresh nuts; conversations punctuated by flashes of insight as bright as lightning in a dark, prairie sky; and laughter that is smart, quick and penetrating and which expands until speech becomes formidable. And how could a list of desires be complete without the feel of a finely crafted fountain pen nib moving across a fresh sheet of Arches paper as we explore new questions and insights; or, a winding road, clear of oncoming traffic and speed traps where the Fiat can sift through the corners like the gentle sway of a dancer’s hips, while the sun warms the open cockpit and the wind smells of cedar and sea.
My desires can be satisfied. Assume responsibility and act.
Yearnings though seem to be of a different quality, to have a special relationship to the spirit.
The distinctions are subtle between desire, craving, yearning, and longing.
Longings inhabit the other end of the spectrum from desire. Longings are impossibilities which refuse to be acknowledged or abandoned, like the continual fantasizing about the other road at the fork. Longing can slip into a passive, perpetual state of dissatisfaction that drains the soul and can leave the host resentful about a life, longed-for but not lived.
As a Christian, I yearn for different realities for myself, my family and the world. Prompted by the Advent themes, I yearn for deep and profound hope, a peace that transcends the lack of conflict, the joy that is beyond simple satisfaction and a love that is unconditional and pervasive. Even if I focus, plan, prioritize and execute as a high performer, I cannot satisfy the depth of these yearnings by myself or even with a group of the elite.
And yet, I can not surrender the vision or the yearning. Hope, peace, joy and love are woven, like rebar, into the foundation of God’s dream and being. I cannot surrender the Advent themes to the realm of the impossible.
I, therefore, live in a somewhat awkward state. I cannot surrender my power and responsibility to be, in my own corner of the world, an agent of hope, peace, joy and love even while, at the same time, I try and cultivate a spirit that looks for the intervention, the surprise of the unexpected, which will bring about that which I cannot produce.
Such a posture takes courage, perseverance and humility.
I don’t always succeed.
For what do you most yearn?
Thanks for being part of the Wondering Tribe!