From India comes this ancient story about a young man who is longing to know and find God. He goes to an old religious man seeking answers and puts this question to him: "How can I find God?" he asks, there is a longing within my soul and I want to get close to Him.
The scholar thought for a moment then nodded wisely. He motioned for the young man to follow him to a nearby river and out they waded into the deep, tepid water. Soon it reached just under their chins. Suddenly the old man seized the young man by the neck and pushed him under the water, held him down until he was threshing mightily in fear and desperation for he did not want to drown. Another minute more and he knew his life would be over. The old man realizing this pulled him out and the two came to shore with the young man gasping for air and coughing badly as he tried to expel the water from his lungs.
When they reached the bank the youth cried out, "Why did you do this and what did that have to do with my longing for God?" The old man quietly asked him, "While you were under the water, what did you want more than anything else?" The young man thought for a minute and then answered, "I wanted air! I needed air more than anything else!" The old man replied, "When you want God as much as you wanted air, you will find him.
We must ask ourselves, Do we really long for God with all our hearts and all our souls? That is the question. As Christians we say we love God and want to spend eternity with Him. But it is a futuristic love. Most of us do not want to leave the world we know to be with Him until there is nothing more for us here. We do not even make time to reflect on whether or not we genuinely even long for Him. We follow by rote what God expects without really knowing that God is quietly waiting for us to get into a close and intimate fellowship with Him. We must desire this with all our hearts for when we love Him we want and need to be near Him. We will want to know every detail and every fact that He has handed down to us from the prophets through the Bible.
Perversely no matter how bad life is, we still want it, cherish it, and hope somehow it will be the place where we can still find a measure of happiness. God unselfishly made us that way. In the meantime, many of us are content to have Gods heaven as a far away reality and do not strive for the closeness God wants to share with us. We settle for the things that are accessible to us such as friends, a career, a bank account and a home instead of yearning for a true relationship with God. We choose an imperfect human life without God in it.
Remember when our mothers left us to go shopping and we hung around the front door or window hoping for a small glimpse of her returning? Nothing could satisfy for no one else could fill her place. There was a strong tie that existed for us that only she could fulfill. No one and nothing else could ease that longing for her. We wept as we watched through the front windows longing for her return. The happiness we felt when we finally caught sight of her coming back was the most beautiful thing in the world. She would take us up into her arms and kiss away our tears and fill us with peace and rightness. Just as mothers and children are totally compatible we are also totally compatible with God for He made us in His image with a desire to want His nearness, and as Catholic Christians, this need can only be filled by God.
Longing for God has nothing to do with wanting to die in order to be with Him. It has to do with a viable relationship with Him in the here and now, a relationship that will grow and mature so that we will be ready to move when God commands. It has to do with placing all things before Him each day and seeking His help in our lives. In Acts 17, St Paul tells us that God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for Him and find Him though indeed He is not far from each one of us. Over and over, God has also sent this message down to us from the gospel of Mathew: I will be with you always. God does not ask us to leave this earth without living out the metered time He wants us to have. He wants to share a fellowship, an association with us in the present. He wants us to know Him not just as the powerful and mighty Creator, but in a sacred association He yearns to have with each of us.
As long as we have a comfortable life without pain and suffering, have enough food to eat, we try to be happy with things as they are. We are content to search out something new to fill the unquenchable longing we feel within ourselves. If we can look beyond the earthly and understand the created longing God has out in our hearts we will work toward filling it with a real and solid relationship with the Father. Mere existence cannot satisfy the human heart completely. If we try to fill holy hunger with earthly things only, that longing will still be there for it is a hunger for God and from Him. Psalm 73: 25,26 tells us, Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
There is a classic book The Pursuit of God that was written by a man named A.W. Tozer during a train trip from Chicago to McAllen, Texas in late 1940 and he states, O God, I have tasted thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be more thirsty still.
Our hearts cannot rest until they rest in God. But we can know Him through His word handed down to us through the Bible. Isaiah 26: 8-9 states, Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. We have a God who created us in His image and loves us so intensely He was willing to sacrifice His son to offer us a way to be with Him forever. He molded us with a special longing, a special need inside of us, a hunger and thirst to be united with He Who formed us.
With this longing we seek to please the Lord and with this desire He will be with us forever.
63:1) O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you;
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