How often we must distract ourselves from desire. How often we must confuse distractions with desire.
Within each human being there lies a deep, inexpressible, almost incomprehensible longing. A guttural, primordial ache that we try to soothe and sedate with distractions.
When life is difficult, the oozing ache makes sense. We believe that if our life circumstances change or if we get a certain thing that we are wanting, the longing and pain will be appeased.
What is fascinating (if you look at in the right light), is that even when life is grand (if your life should ever get to that point), the longing ache remains. It's stunning really.
Food and drink are good distractions because at least for the brief moments they are on your tongue, they arouse the senses, can please the human desire for variety, and give a feeling of satisfaction. Material goods are a good distraction because they are tangible, sometimes truly useful, and others can admire them. Relationships are a good distraction (perhaps the best distraction) because as far as distractions go, they are the closest we will come to what we really want. Music and traveling and reading and television shows and movies and pets and hobbies and physical fitness and leadership and sex are all good distractions because they keep us busy from minding the ache. None of the above things are bad in and of themselves, they are just insufficient for fulfilling out deepest desires. They are never enough.
I do not think most people are consciously aware of the raw longing in their souls. For those of us that are aware of its presence, I encourage you not to stifle the raw.
I suppose most of us do not have time to sit and ponder the raw ache all day long, but whenever you have a few moments...in the car, in the shower, while you are lying in bed....ask yourself: what is fueling the longing?
I do not want to fall into the mindset of "If I just had ______________, the longing would subside". I have thought that many times in my life and every time, when I have gotten what I so badly wanted, the ache has remained.
In my personal quest to not stifle the raw, but to lean into it and dig to the root of it, I have come to the conclusion that what my heart and soul are silently screaming out for is more of the real and living Presence of God.
Let me be clear in saying that thinking this way did not come naturally to me. If it were up to me, the distractions of this world would satisfy me quite nicely. But they do not. The longing remains. And what a frustrating way to live. Always longing for what you do not have, only to get it and realize the longing is still naggingly, annoyingly, painfully present.
I realize there is a possibility I am just odd and dramatic and others are truly satiated with television shows, milkshakes, and cruises to the Caribbean. I do not really think I am that unique though, so surely there are others out there who have been disillusioned by the ever-present ache.
Allowing the Presence of God to enter into the ache is a conscious choice (albeit aided by the Holy Spirit). "Practicing the Presence" of Jesus Christ has radically changed my life. Whether in seasons of great distress or seasons of immense happiness, His Presence gives me a deep sense of peace, stillness, and even overwhelming joy. Not to mention the grace to love others in a way I never thought possible (because it was not).
So, while eating and reading and spending time with loved ones are all wonderful gifts in life, I try to remain consciously aware of my truest desire. I will not claim to understand the Presence of God or why it is so fulfilling, I just know those things to be true from experience.
Funnily enough, when I am consciously aware of the Presence of Jesus in my everyday life, even the things I formerly used to distract myself become more enjoyable in their rightful place. Coffee taste more bitter (I like that), flowers smell sweeter, my dad's jokes are funnier. And perhaps it is all because instead of attempting to find life in those things, I am enjoying life with those things. Jesus said that He came to give us life to the fullest because that full life is found in His constant Presence in our lives.
I am thankful for the raw ache and my awareness of it because it is a continual reminder to not seek life in distractions, but in the Source of Life itself.