Longings are fragile: handle with care
As a child, the season of Advent was one of bubbling anticipation. One year, desperate to know what presents were heading my way I went on a detective hunt around the house. The initial euphoria at my success quickly changed into tears as I realised what I had ruined. That year I learned that longings need to carefully managed. I never went looking for presents again.
As an adult our desires change with the seasons and our unique experiences of life. In this season I still have deep longings, yet know that more than ever they need to be handled with care.
Christmas Day is now spent with my extended family. They create an amazing day worthy of any TV supermarket advert. Food and presents are available in abundance as are family members. When the children were younger my role was to keep them entertained while the adults prepared the sumptuous feast. Now that they are older, I have lost that purpose and instead find myself on the margins looking in. Aware of the widening gap between our lifestyles, due to my struggles with my physical and mental health, as a highly sensitive person living with Chronic Fatigue, I spend the day with a deep sense of longing.
I long to feel normal.
I long to more resilient, and less broken.
I long to be able to cope with what 21st century life throws at me.
I long to be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. I can do some things but not all. I have had oodles of therapy and prayer ministry and quoted scripture about casting my cares upon God until I am blue in the face but here is the fact – I don’t do well in high pressure situations. And Christmas Day is a pressure pot of anticipation and expectation.
The gulf between myself and my family is wide and deep. Much as I love them, I spend the day missing those that I do daily life with. I miss being with the people who I feel normal around. People who live with enough but not abundance. People who strive to be content with what they have but secretly long for more. More capacity, more resilience, more equality, more faith.
Fortunately, Isaiah chapter 30 v 18 reminds me that God has longings too. Far more noble than mine, but also hugely comforting:
Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
It is wonderful to know that he longs to be gracious to us. As king of all seasons he rises to show us compassion. For me His grace at present is teaching me self-compassion to combat the army of negative voices in my head.
I am not sure who has the loudest or more severe voice: my inner critic or satan’s accusations. Either way the harsh admonitions to be more grateful for all I have at Christmas come loud and clear; or the put downs for feeling overwhelmed by the razzle and dazzle, that lead to secret longings for New Year to arrive quickly so that normality can resume and my cortisol levels can even out again. For wanting more depth of connection with my family than that of a deep-filled mince pie.
Learning to self soothe and quieten those voices reassures that my longings are real and valid. It is merely a case of handling them with love and sensitivity. That is the best present I can give myself at this time of year.
Knowing that God doesn’t just want to be gracious to us but rather longs to do so enables me to face this season with a greater sense of connection and contentedness.
What are your longings this season? Share them in the comments below.