Yearning: to have an interest or strong desire; longing; to be moved or attracted toward. We have all kinds of "longings" don't we? When the day just seem to drag on and on at work, we "long" to be home or out pursuing some other activity. When the laundry is piled high and the sun is shining, we long to be outside enjoying the weather, not scrubbing away yesterday's stains. When the traffic jam keeps us inching along, we long for another passenger in our car so we can take the high-occupancy lane! All kinds of "yearnings", huh? It is the process of "yearning" which actually gets us to take steps forward most of the time. We just aren't satisfied with the way things are, so we move toward what or where we think things will be different. For example, we sign up for the carpool club at work so we don't have to wait in the rush hour traffic, or we do a load of laundry here and there so the weekends are free of "household chores" and we can be free to hang out doing the stuff we like to do.
How lovely are Your tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul yearns, yes, even pines and is homesick for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out and sing for joy to the living God. Yes, the sparrow has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young—even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! (Psalm 84:1-4 AMP)
As we have spent the past several weeks exploring the character traits God desires to see in each of our lives, one thing kind of ties them all together - yearning. What we desire the most will become the object of our attention - what is the object of our attention becomes the object of our affection. What captivates our affection becomes the dominating and overriding influence for our choices in life. If you don't believe me, think about the one thing which seems to keep getting you into trouble in life. It has a "pulling" influence, doesn't it? No matter how hard you "try" to avoid its influence, you get "roped in" every time! It might be you are just like me - needing a little adjustment in the "longing" department!
We can yearn for both beneficial and harmful things - almost at the same time. For example, if we are hungry, we can yearn for something sweet or salty - the "loudest" yearning will be fed. I have had to recondition my brain to desire the "sweetness" of the fruits and not so much of the sweetness of the chocolate bar! We sometimes confuse longing with passion. Passion is just the emotion we attach to the yearning. The yearning comes from a deeper place. Maybe this is why David turns to God and tells him his SOUL yearns for God's presence - his mind, will, and emotions. See, he connects the three - not just the emotions. His mind has been made up - it desires the one who can fulfill every longing. His will has determined who it is he will pursue. His emotions might just get him moving toward God's presence, but they don't do all the work!
Here are some things I have learned about our yearnings:
* There is a power behind them. Whenever we want to understand how to "break the hold" of a yearning which is not beneficial to us, we have to understand the "power" behind the yearning. For example, if I struggle with being critical toward others, I need to understand what the root of that judgmental pattern is. It might have a link in not feeling good about your own abilities or accomplishments, so you find it easy to criticize the accomplishments of others. It might have a root in being told you'd never amount to anything, so you are a little jealous of others who actually do. Regardless of the root, the fruit is manifest in the critical attitude and response toward others. Getting at the root helps us break the "power" behind the yearning - for in understanding the root, we begin to allow God's power to change the fruit.
* There is a depth to each desire. Some desires are fleeting - they just are there and then gone. Like when I see a new outfit I might want, try it on and then realize I look absolutely terrible in the latest fashion. The desire is gone as soon as I see how it does nothing to improve my appearance! Other desires are lasting - such as the need to be loved and to love another. This particular one can get us into a lot of circumstances we'd have been better off avoiding. For some, this longing is connected with the root we call lust. Lust is a powerful emotion and can send reason right out the door. Understanding the difference between lust (longing for immediate satisfaction) and love (the long-term commitment to meet the needs of another) is the starting point for recognizing when lust is the motivating influence. The depth of the desire determines just how frequently we will pursue the desire.
* There is a sense of something being unattainable. Now this may seem a little odd to say, but hear me out. We often have longings or desires which we honestly don't believe for a moment we will ever be able to achieve or attain in life. For example, we are presently a size 14 dress - we long to be a size 5 dress - but...your main problem is not the dress size, it is the reality that your "frame" is one which will likely never be a size 5 (you are large bones, so your muscles need to be a little larger to support that frame size). A size 5 woman has a smaller bone frame than a size 14 woman! Now, could you realistically achieve a size 5 - yes! But...you'd look anorexic! Some of our longings are linked to how we "see" ourselves. Others are linked to how others see us. Either way, we get defeated because we don't "think" there is any remote possibility of attaining our desire. This goes back to the power behind the desire. When the focus is right, the desire lines up. It isn't that we'd be healthier at a size 5, we'd just be skinnier! One thing I have learned is that my "image" is not realistic when it is governed by comparing myself with others. When I do this, all those desires somehow present themselves as unattainable - in the far off distance, not in the here and now. I need to let God deal with the here and now, knowing with confidence he will address the far off distance in his perfect timing and way. Chances are, what is so all-fired important to me today will pale in comparison to what he has for me tomorrow!
Just some thoughts on yearning (longing) today. Maybe we'd do well to do what David said: Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! Just sayin!