A couple of weeks ago I challenged a friend to put together a bucket list. My friend was at a crossroads of life and I felt it was helpful to suggest she endeavour upon this journey to create such a list of things she would want to do in this life.
When I got home, I realized that my list has dust on it.
Last I checked I may have achieved roughly 35 of the 100 items on my list so there is much adventure to be had. At this point in life, the list represents an unfulfilled ‘longing’. But a longing for what? No matter what amazing things happen in life and what I check off on the list, I still feel this longing. C.S. Lewis said,
“There was something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in reality.”
Sheila Walsh calls this a “sacred ache”, as we long for a world or life that we cannot fully attain. Heaven and earth collide. As Lewis noted, ‘reality’ takes hold of us until we are fully with our maker.
I recently read in Alister McGrath’s biography C.S. Lewis that when Lewis realized he was not going to live longer, he acknowledged that his name and most importantly, his books would move toward obscurity. The world was changing in the sixties and so he thought his words with them. We know now that his self-analysis was wrong but it revealed how until his end, he wondered if all of it was in vain. He longed for a greater significance.
So why is there longing? Why do we try?
Is longing there to pick and prod us to the point where we sit up in our chair, move the chair back, and stand up? Sometimes, that is the case I am learning. I am also discovering that courage is in the subtleties of life. It is in the thoughtful decisions about how to spend time. It is how I will prioritize and develop richer relationships. It is trusting in God in my career (which is difficult) and dust off my bucket list. I am 34 and have so much life ahead of me. My wife and I both feel this urgency to make a difference but often feel paralyzed by the grind of busyness.
So, I can retire to my excuses or I can act.
Philippians 1:21 points out the Apostle Paul’s struggle with this very thing.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
It is evident that God has purpose in life as well as death. I am confident though that God knows what he is doing and this is why the longing exists. I was a daydreaming child and now a daydreaming adult. I do know that I feel most alive when I am moving, trying new things (and even failing at them). I question my motives though and ask God if I even should be longing? Is it selfish? I don’t want to get lost in the busyness, I want my time to mean something. If C.S. Lewis had questions about this then I should pay close attention in my life.
My thoughts drifted to the movie Finding Forrester (2000) when the reclusive writer Robert Forrester recites the poem from his young mentor Jamal.
“…we will find that the wishes we had for the father, who once guided us…for the brother, who once inspired us….The only thing left to say will be: “I wish I had seen this, or I wish I had done that, or I wish…”
As Forrester reflects on what he learns from the young man, no matter young or old, we feel these words.
“Someone I once knew wrote that we walk away from our dreams afraid we may fail, or worse yet, afraid that we may succeed.”
I have very few regrets in life mainly because my faith comforts and reminds me that it is all part of God’s journey. But the longing is real and as life’s clock ticks and without that prodding, I won’t be pushed to act.
Thankfully regrets are fleeting though and I am comforted most by Lewis’ words,
“We can never know what might have been but what is to come is another matter entirely.”
So I will continue to look ahead.
Tomorrow I will sit up straight in my chair, gently push back the chair, take a deep breath, and pray. After all, longing is beautiful trust and I will stand up and begin walking in faith.