The Longing and the Gratitude

“I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of groundedness, of enough, even while I’m longing for something more. The longing and the gratitude, both. I’m practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can’t, that he’s weaving a future I can’t even imagine from where I sit this morning.”
― Shauna Niequist

Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at longing for things. There are things I perennially long for, and things that I fleetingly desire. But if I am honest, there’s always a longing for either more or different.

In some ways, this longing for more or different is what urges me to continue to grow and seek new experiences that enhance my life. It is what prods me into meeting new people, taking risks, into seeing where new adventures will take me.

The down side is that I find it difficult to hold the tension between longing and cultivating, as Shauna Niequist calls it in the quote above, “a deep sense of gratitude, of groundedness, of enough”, which I also deeply wish for.

In order to resolve the tension, for much of my life I just set aside the longing. I felt it in my heart, but I refused to act in ways that moved me toward what I desired. Instead, I took refuge in what I thought I was supposed to do. What I should do to be safe, to be liked, to live a life that looked right from the outside in. All the while, feeling terrible from the inside out.

The other night, I lay in bed thinking about how I’ve changed in the two years since I left my professional life in higher education and took the leap of moving to a new city with no real idea what kind of life awaited me here. I have tried to learn how to follow my instincts, to pay attention to what my heart and my intuition tell me. This isn’t an exact science by any means – there are no guarantees that I will choose rightly, especially after a lifetime of ignoring my intuition. Like all things, I believe I’m getting better at listening to my heart as I practice doing so.

It occurred to me, as I reflected on this, that listening to my heart and distinguishing what I truly long for, as opposed to what the world, what others, what my fears say I should long for is a way of listening for the voice of God whispering in my ear.

And this is why I am working to cultivate the sense of enough in the here and now, even as I long to continue moving forward toward more. Creating the life I desire isn’t only about pushing toward something else, it is also about being present in what I have and taking the time to appreciate it. To be grateful for the gifts of today is not the same as settling for stasis.

But to hear a whisper, one must learn to be still.