Contemplatives, mystics, wondering wanderers….this blog’s for you. Continuing the exploration of the experience and call of the modern-day mystic.
God touches us with a touch that is Emptiness and empties us.
– Thomas Merton
Longing, Longing, insatiable longing
Sigh. As I reflect on the insatiable longing that plagues the mystic’s heart, I feel the tongues of longing flickering around my spirit…taunting me, haunting me, tempting me into the downward spiral of despair. The longing of the mystic begins with an emptiness that seeks to be filled. This longing is then marked by a hunger that says, “it’s not enough, it’s never enough,” and a restless anxiousness that urges, “Look here, look there..hurry up, it’s over here” only to find it is not here, not there, not any “where,” and to experience within, among, around and at the end of the search, (until we know the true source of the longing) only disappointment and frustration.
Many, after seeking and finding disappointment, simply shake it off and move on. Not the mystic. The mystic feels the pain of disappointment, frustration, loss, as if their heart has been torn in two…as if their very soul has been ripped from their spirit. The pain of the mystic is EXCRUCIATING…..devastating….often leading to despair. And the pain that the mystic feels is not solely their own, for the call (some might say burden) of the mystic is to carry the world in its suffering and pain. The mystic feels so that others might feel. The mystic longs so that others may long. The mystic searches so that others might seek.
Pain with purpose
The pain of the mystic, however, is not without purpose. The job of the mystic is two-fold:
1) To seek until the longing is fulfilled
2) To inspire others in that same search
The emptiness and longing planted within the mystic’s heart is the same restlessness and longing experienced by others, but the difference is that the mystic has no choice but to seek its remedy. It’s as if a force within them provokes, urges, pushes, prods, until the mystic heeds its call. Then once the mystic has set their foot along the path, the longing fuels this search. And in their seeking and losing, searching and missing, searching and not finding, the mystic reveals the path to others. But it is only in finding the true remedy for their search that the mystic has fulfilled their purpose and in doing so, revealing the purpose for others.
The remedy to the longing
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
– Augustine of Hippo
I could not have said it any better! St. Augustine, in his Confessions, clearly and heart-wrenchingly states, at once, the purpose and remedy to the mystic’s longing. In a word: GOD. The longing that is planted in the mystic’s heart is no less than God calling us home. The tongues of fire that flicker about our ears and fuel our restless hearts are quite simply God desiring to be known. And for the mystic, when we come to know God, we come to know ourselves.
The prescription for this longing, for this insatiable hunger and desire, for this restless search is to BE WITH GOD. For some, this might mean meditation, contemplation and prayer. For others, being with God might mean creative pursuits, hard physical labor (or exercise), fulfilling work. It doesn’t matter how we get there, but that we find the practice, the activity, the thing that helps us to remember God in the felt experience of love, peace, fulfillment and joy, and that we find a way to share that love with others.
At the end of the hallway of closed and locked doors
One Lone Door stands open
and there he is, bathed in light
Beckoning my return.
– Lauri Lumby (from my soon to be released book, Returning)