Temperamentally, I am a woman who is always filled with longing. I suppose because of my background in the conservative church, I might have absorbed some kind of unexamined lore that a Christian woman should be content, satisfied in her spiritual journey and not filled with dissonance of any kind. That would be nice, but it is not who I am.
The longing that haunts me and has always haunted me is not for things or for material possessions; it is for harmony, order and beauty. And because, in so much of my life, I am not able to create harmony, order and beauty, I have to carefully watch that my soul doesn’t begin to paddle around in puddles of sour frustration.
For me, this has been a kind of curse. And I do not want to be like one of the female characters in the movieEnchanted April who was described by her puzzled husband as an eternally “disappointed Madonna.”
In his book The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser says that “spirituality concerns what we do with desire.” Now that is something to think about—spirituality concerns what we do with desire…
So, what do I do with this disconsolate subtext that has always been so much a part of my interior makeup? Would I attempt to create harmony, order and beauty—in my home, in my office, in my writing, and in my human relationships—if I didn’t have a longing for them. Perhaps this is a longing God has given to me—this uncomfortable dissatisfaction. Perhaps it is the ones who long for a better world who work to create a better world. Perhaps good Christian women are not so content after all, but should be people who do something with their discontent. Perhaps this longing is a faint primal memory of some sort—a memory of when things were perfect, when there was harmony, order, and beauty in the world. Perhaps there is a genetic knowing of Eden, Paradise that was and a DNA premonition of what will be, Heaven, Paradise to come. Perhaps my particular spirituality needs to leverage this unsatisfied longing. Perhaps I need to be grateful that I am a woman who has learned to live with this unsatisfied desire.
It is an enormous comfort, consequently, for me to know that my unfulfilled longings will one day be at rest in a place, Paradise, where everything is finally as it should be.
But for now, every time longing for harmony, for order, and for beauty rises in my soul, I attempt to turn it to that One in whom all longings are eventually satisfied. Christ is the originator of harmony, of order, and of all things beautiful. “Let me give you this longing,” I pray, “this unfulfilled hope. Turn my dissatisfaction into desire for You.”
In the meantime, I’ll attempt to turn this longing into something useful.
Other projects involving Karen right now are: Working with teams of Christian women to design Retreats of Silence, in both 24-hours and three-days formats, through the aegis of Hungry Souls. Developing hospitality initiatives that train Christian men and women how to use their own homes in caring outreaches through the Open Heart, Open Home ministries. Launching the Global Bag Project, a worldwide effort that markets sustainable cloth shopping bags to provide sustainable incomes for bag-makers in developing nations. Researching the impact of listening groups while overseeing some 240 small groups over the last three years. Experimenting with teleconference mentoring for Wannabe (Better) Writers. Designing the Tales of the Kingdom Web site.