A dear friend and mentor allowed for me to borrow her cabin in Monteagle, TN. About 1.5 hours from Nashville, it is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the US — including Fiery Gizzard Trail. I went for recreation — but mostly to spend time with myself. I arrived mid afternoon and walked along the Sewanee Perimeter Trail. I noticed that most of the leaves on the trees were still green — but the ones on the ground had accepted their fall colors.
The leaves reminded me of a prayer I stumbled upon looking for help writing my own pastoral prayer for next Sunday:
“O God of all the changing world,
we pray on this October morning for your guidance.
The leaves have begun to clatter on their branches,
clinging to their summer hold
yet gazing earthward,
amorous of the ground below
and its quiet embrace.”
I thought of my own clinging to summer — afraid of the winter’s cold — yet knowing that “times they are a changin’.” I also watched the sunset:
I read this on page 7: “Every human heart is full of longing. You long to be happy, to live a meaningful and honest life, to find love, and to be able to open your heart to someone; you long to discover who you are and to learn how to heal your own suffering and become free and compassionate. To be alive is to be suffused with longing. The voices of longing keep your life alert and urgent. If you cannot discover the shelter of belonging within your life, you could become a victim and target of your longing, pulled hither and thither without any anchorage anywhere. It is consoling that each of us lives and moves within the great embrace of the earth. You can never fall out of the shelter of this belonging. Part of the reason that we are so lonesome in our modern world is that we have lost the sense of belonging on the earth.”
When I read this — I thought of a song that has been a touchstone for me since I learned it in a voice lesson circa 2001. “I Wish It So” from the musical Juno — I sang it to the falls — “I’ve an unrest in side me, oh it’s long I have had such an unrest in side me, and it’s gettin’ real bad… for I wish it so…” My voice pouring from inside me over the edge of the cannon matching the falls’ intensity. I get O’Donohue’s longing.
Tonight, I hung out with a dear friend. When I’m with him I recognize the way I want to feel when I’m with my future partner. He’s not my future partner — Yet he gives me the gift of belonging and inspires my longing.
O’Donohue goes on: ”One of the deepest longings in the human heart is the desire to be loved for yourself alone. This longing awakens you completely. When you are touched by love, it reaches down into your deepest fiber. It is difficult to realize actually how desperately we do need love… If our hearts were our outside bodies, we would see crippled bodies transform into ballet dancers under the gaze and in the embrace of love.”
I couldn’t drive home after our time together — so I walked around the park some more. I had a nice little chat with God — trying to put words to my experience — Why? What? When? I recognized that my love for this person is really only the tip of the iceberg of my deep, robust, vast longing. “This fracture is always open; it is the secret well from which all longing flows. All prayer, love, creativity, and joy come from this source; our fear and hurt often convert them into their more sinister shadows.” Could I learn to embrace my longing? Could I learn to trust it as a source for the wild and vibrant parts of myself? As I walked to the top of the hill I could see the sun beginning to set. The low hanging clouds caught on fire from the suns distant glow. It looked like this:
I stood there amazed. Then I took photos. Then I sang a refrain “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Then I snapped out of my honor, “Wait just a minute God! You can’t just show me something shiny to distract me from the very intense conversation we were having about longing and why my longing for, well, everything, is so intense!” And the minute I stopped my little rant — God spoke to my heart — This isn’t about distraction! I’m reaching out to say, “Me too.” I get your longing… I understand and I’m with you in it. I have it too.
And in that moment I belonged.