‘Lord, give me what you have made me want; I praise and thank you for the desire that you have inspired; perfect what you have begun, and grant me what you have made me long for.’ –Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
What are you longing for today? Are you aware of the stirring inside? Every human being deeply longs for something. It’s part of the miraculous way God created us. We are not just functional machines programmed to answer and perform, but we are sentient – able to perceive and feel. Imagine what your life would be like if you no longer felt anything, if you lacked the capacity to understand. These abilities help us discern the longing within us.
And yet, that is often not the way we go about our life, is it? We choose instead the utilitarian route. On a typical day we dress in our best clothes and put our best face forward, smiling all the time and telling everyone ‘all is well’. For the casual onlooker our lives look neat and perfect, without any cracks. But what’s the truth? What is our longing telling us about our presented façades? And how does Jesus enter in?
For many years, I ministered in a unique environment—Capitol Hill. The halls of Congress are filled with highly educated, politically savvy, well-dressed people. On the surface, all looked well, and in truth, the thought of initiating a conversation about the longing inside us with people like this seemed a bit trite, maybe even out of place. But the longer I was there, I came to realize the façade was only that – an outer shell to an interior life that longed to know and understand particularly spiritual things.
For many who know me, the thought of where I worked and the type of people I came into contact with on a typical day was a bit like living a reality television show. Day after day, I was around highly influential politicos. For the Christian (maybe especially so), this environment presents temptations that slowly have the capacity to deflate the power of the gospel. In this environment, our longings can feel irrelevant and out of place. Unfortunately, no one is immune. The influence of power can sweep over us in such a way that we begin to look like and act like the people around us rather than the Jesus we know, love, and want to tell others about. This was sometimes true for me. I’m as human as the next person. So, then, what about my longing inside? How was it connected to the way I related to others? In other words, did my longing matter as a messenger of the gospel and if so, how was it associated to sharing the gospel?
From my experience, I’ve come to realize two of the primary challenges we face in bringing a fresh expression to the message of Christ is sharing the story in such a way that people will listen while remaining true to Jesus in our everyday lives. In order for any temptation not to take over, we need God’s help. Starting our day with an honest plea to God, similar to the prayer by Anselm keeps us humble and dependent on God and not on ourselves. This is connected to our longing. Yes, sharing the gospel takes creativity, intelligence, and intention, but we also need to be willing to stay aware of our own longing. After all, how can we expect others to respond to Christ’s gospel of hope and freedom if we ourselves are out of touch for our need of it in our own lives?
However, sharing the gospel in new ways is not simply willingness to remain aware of our longing, it requires vulnerably with others also. More often than not this last bit is often lost in a day-to-day world that values outcomes and progress reports more than the work of the Spirit. We all have bottom lines, and somehow the vulnerability of our longing can get trumped by productivity, even to the degree of sidelining the Spirit of God to accomplish something. But thankfully the Holy Spirit is not dependent on our efforts or time constraints. He will do what He wants, when He wants. His ability to speak into someone’s longing is not contingent even on our best efforts.
So where does this leave us? With a renewed perspective of sharing Christ’s gospel. Like Anselm, let the longing inside each one of us lead us into a deeper intimacy with Christ. As it does, let us turn around and with fresh eyes see those God has given us to share His gospel of hope and freedom with, not as detached messengers, but as those who also long for Him to heal, satisfy, and fill the longing inside us and others.
Meg Saunders is a student at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Formerly, she served as an Associate to U.S. Senate Chaplains Lloyd Ogilvie and Barry Black.