Reflections on the Spiritual Life
The Caprice Applequist Perspective
Episode 27: The Space Between Where You are and Where You want to Be
This is the emotion I’ve been connecting with most lately. I long to feel more at home in this new country, in my house, with the people I’m around. I long for a partner. I long for my best friends to be able to visit (thanks to covid very unlikely). I long to be better at speaking Urdu. I long for adventure. I even long for rebellion. Covering myself head to toe to walk out my front door makes me want to find ways to rebel--how short can I make my sleeves? How to best style my hair with a hijab? How can I express myself without getting unwanted stares from old men?
This emotion has even been an active part of my spiritual life. For the last year or so, my relationship with God has felt dry and even at times discouraging. I’ve mostly described it as feeling like we’re in the same room, but existing in silence. I may never know why or some deeper purpose, but I do long for the clear voice of direction I used to hear from Him.
Recently I’ve been leading imaginative prayer (more on these another day) pretty regularly. And even in those, I find myself in a place of longing. We were imagining the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and I found myself in the back of the crowd, feeling annoyed, assuming the food will never get to me. We put ourselves into the story of the miraculous catch of fish, and I found myself as a member of the crowd on the shore wishing I could be close to Jesus, wishing that I were on the boat experiencing the miracle. Even in my imagination, I am longing for something different. Even imagining myself in stories with Jesus, I feel discontent. Is that a problem?
Romans 8 is what always comes to mind when I think of longing. I’ve always been struck by the lines saying that all of creation is groaning, longing for the day when the Kingdom of God will be fully realized and it will no longer be subject to the pain of sin. But after those verses come some beautiful verses about the longings of humanity--
23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) (NLT)
I think I’m in love with that line about groaning (longing) even though we have the Holy Spirit within us. Like what more could we ask for beyond God’s Spirit dwelling with us? Turns out, even with that, we are still allowed to feel discontent, eager for the full future ahead of us.
So what do I do with all this longing? I can hear my former therapist saying, “You don’t do anything with it; it’s an emotion. You just feel it.” Probably sound advice. So that’s what I’m trying to do, feel my longings, experience them, and maybe let them push me toward a deeper intimacy with Jesus.
By Caprice Applequist
The people who know God well — the mystics, the hermits, those who risk everything to find God — always meet a lover, not a dictator. God is never found to be an abusive father or a tyrannical mother, but always a lover who is more than we dared hope for. How different than the “account manager” that most people seem to worship.
Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer
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