(This is a part of my "loaves and fishes" offerings - click here to see the original post - Living the questions - Part I is here.)
“Once pain or confusion is framed or articulated by a question, it must be lived rather than answered...The first task of seeking [spiritual] guidance then is to touch your own struggles, doubts and insecurities – in short to affirm your life as a quest. Your life, my life, is given graciously by God. Our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus as our friend and finest guide.” (Henri Nouwen, in Spiritual Direction, 6).
Picture an iceberg...on the surface is what we know. Beneath is a mass of unknown. What presents as our compulsions (often in response to our pain/woundings), really, if we take time to pay attention, is an invitation to our deeper questions below the surface. But beneath (or perhaps within) our questions lies our longings...our soul, mind, body, heart yearnings, crying out for authentic and meaningful loving and living. Our compulsions mask our pain. Our pain leads to deeper questions – and our questions, sometimes disguised as dissatisfactions – always lead to our longings.When we let them lead us to our longings, they are Holy.
And my/your longing is the truest thing about me/you – whether we are conscious of it or not. It is a compulsory force for all we think, say, and do.
No doubt, these “ultimate life questions” are potentially charged with the type of glorious profundity that will sully life as usual. Life may still “look” mundane and perhaps even like a struggle, but everyday moments will be, as Gerald Manley Hopkins penned, be “charged with the grandeur of God.” Ordinary becomes extraordinary because we dare to live our questions and listen for His answers. People who face death and battle diseases know this...in the midst of the deeper questions many petty concerns and pursuits seem frivolous.
When we do dare to dig deeper and we have a taste that there is INDEED more – when we realize and embrace that ultimately our longing to be loved and significant is only met in the lavish embrace of God – our compulsions to attain enough affection, approval and security/control, dissipate. We no longer need to frenetically chase the "oh look that's shiny" shadows of reality. We are enough; Life is enough; Because He is enough. The pathway to “enoughness” seems to be by paying attention to our wounds, our questions and the deepest longings these reveal. Yes, even the longings which often feel threatening, out-of-control, untidy and “improper” for “nice” Christian people.
I wonder if that is why there is a pathological addiction to busyness in our culture.
If I stay busy, my life “looks” of value, for “busyness” is a modern day status symbol of success AND I can avoid the deeper longings that are often unpredictable and seem irresponsible. I can secure (aka manipulate) the affection I need, the approval I need, the control/security I need to feel good about myself. Busyness lends me the convenience of bypassing the pain so as to also ignore the underlying questions. But if I continue doing so, my life will continue “spinning” in the dreaded rut – where I do the same behaviors over and over expecting a fresh and effortless outcome (i.e. like losing weight without limiting my intake of food or exercising...)
I will never arrive at my soul's deepest longings – and the place where true, abundant and meaningful living emerges - without facing my pain and living my questions.
Here is God's invitation (in the context of bringing our thirsts to his living waters Is. 55:1-8):
“Pay attention, come to Me, and listen that your soul might live.” (Is. 55:3)
If you are asking ultimate life questions - trying to “figure life out” - or ready to consider some of these deeper longings of your soul, please consider journeying with a soul friend – a trained spiritual director. Spiritual Direction is an ancient practice in the church – where you companion with a person who journeys alongside and lends you courage to pay attention to all that your life – your true life – is voicing and longing to voice and contribute to a world in need. A Spiritual Director does not direct or coach your life – but (s)he will help you overhear the nuances of your own soul in tandem with the True Director, the Holy Spirit. For more info or questions on how to find a Spiritual Director and/or ask what Spiritual Direction is all about, click here or on the links below.
- creating unhurried space for the soul
- soul care retreats, resources and coaching