I’ve been a teen four or five years now. I think I’ve learned a good bit about teenagerhood (you do, when you’re living it). But there’s one aspect in particular that’s been on my mind the past few months.
Things change so much.
It’s the very nature of this season we inhabit, like creatures always just a little displaced. We’re like cars on the highway. We rush on, caught in a constant process of discovery and meeting and finding. We’re waking up to find the future we imagined is closer than we thought, and the biggest leaps are just steps along the path – and all the while there’s an essay due at midnight (and did I do that other assignment?) and I need to apply for a job, and I really want to read The Silmarillion sometime.
But the thing about going so fast is that people and places fall behind us. We both discover and forget – we meet and we part – we find some beautiful new treasure, and we leave something else behind.
That little church building that held so much of my childhood is a plant nursery now; the old man who was like a grandfather to our church has been gone some time; and I look back on the past few years and find some memories have a certain happy tinge to them – and I’ll never see quite that same shade of color again.
And then the people I’ve met – brothers and sisters I’ve laughed and cried with, and we’ve shared so much fellowship and joy. But this year I’ll see them all – actually, not even all – one more time, Lord willing. And then we have to move on; and your path may never again run parallel to mine, my friend.
And I don’t say all this to be melancholy or depressing. It’s just that I’ve found that I don’t like to let go of things. My heart has a tendency to hold on, even when there’s no logical reason to.
I don’t want to lose things – especially these friendships that I treasure so highly. The truth is, I probably will lose them, at least some. Social media helps a little; but it only goes so far. In the words of one Peregrine Took, “All shall fade.”
And yet, I want to hold on. I love these memories, these people. I don’t want to lose them.
And I don’t believe this longing is wrong – at least, not in itself.
Because here’s the thing: the human heart wasn’t made to let go of goodness.
“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.” (Psalm 34:8-9)
God has given us Himself to enjoy. What a glorious, magnificent reality! And He is true goodness. He is the definition of what is good.
Our hearts were made to worship Him. To enjoy Him, to hold on and not let go.
But our hearts are so fickle. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…” We turn off on a dozen rabbit trails, we chase everything else. And we hold on, not to Him, but to all the good gifts He gave us. All these things that are nothing more than a reflection of His infinite glory and wonder. We give our hearts to things that are just the evidence of His love for us – not to Love Himself.
And these things we hold on to so tightly. But we can’t cling to Him when our fingers are wrapped around something else.
And yet here we find the difficulty, because at the same time, it’s not wrong to enjoy these things.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)
His perfect, unchanging goodness is revealed in the abundance of excellent gifts He gives His children.
And yet, while these can bring us joy, the true joy comes ultimately from their Giver. As we enjoy His gifts – the people we love, the fun things, the beautiful things – we always have to be looking back in adoration to Him.
I can’t sit here and say I have all this figured out, because I really don’t. But by God’s grace, I’ll keep learning.
I’ll rejoice in what I’m given today – in afternoons of sitting in a hammock reading C.S. Lewis, in fun times with friends, in hours of writing. But in all of it, let me see the goodness of my Father.
And I’ll mourn at the things I’ll inevitably lose. At friendships frayed over time; at good memories that I know won’t come again.
But the mourning isn’t without hope.
Because this longing we feel is there for a reason – it will one day be fulfilled.
Those friendships I have now aren’t bound by time and space. They’re eternal – not in some mystical, meaningless sense, but because our fellowship is bought by blood. We’re part of something bigger than ourselves – the body of Christ. There will come a day when we will worship together, forever.
But that, in itself, isn’t the reason for this hope. No, the foundation is so much greater.
All the longing is that which will only ever be fulfilled in Christ. One day I will meet Him. I’ll meet the One who is the greatest friend of all – whose love is the model for every other relationship and puts them all to shame.
I’ll look into the face of the Light that all the other joys reflected. I’ll meet the Giver of the gifts. When I meet Him face to face I’ll understand, finally, what it was I really wanted. And I’ll see how all the things I’ve loved were a blood-bought expression of His love for us.
And then I will worship.
So let’s live like this, with these twin braided strands of hope and longing. With a joy in God through all of His gifts – and with a sure and certain hope for the glory that’s to come.
In this, we will worship.