He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~Ecc 3:11
Maybe it was because I retreated to the mountains of North Carolina for some solitude and rest after three days at Disney World, because last week, I was introduced to my new favorite word: Sehnsucht. It is a term for the German concept of an “inconsolable longing.” It is this longing deep within our souls for something greater than we can experience or achieve.
Ecclessiates 3:11 shows us that we are all designed with a longing for eternity, yet the minituate of the daily drags us into our limitedness. We get frustrated over traffic, or AT&T bills; we feel defeated by stomach bugs and longings for vacations that only exhaust us more than allow us to recuperate. Groceries have to bought every week and laundry seems to pile up out of nowhere. Dirt accumulates; bills appear. We long for something more, but we are never satisfied with the more that we gain. We are eternity bundled in the finite. We dream big dreams, but experience underwhelming days.
We are image bearers of the eternal God…yet we cry and bleed and die and hurt each other and sin and get tired and have sexual desires and hungers. We long for something unattainable while we struggle in the day to day to feed that longing.
We long for our marriage to be better, but we are not exactly sure what that would mean. We long for our careers to be more meaningful, but we discover that the dream job still has its TPS reports. We long for our kids to be safe, but there seems to be an endless source of threats. These inconsolable longings wear us down so that we never feel good enough, never feel satisfied and never feel adequate.
CS Lewis writes about this longing in The Weight of Glory:
“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you…the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name…For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”
This is the longing we try to fill with mundane tasks and what makes life so aggravating, because even when we gain the very things we desire, we discover they do not fulfill that inconsolable longing.
We are exiles longing for an eternal home.
Like a hungry, park-weary Mousekeeter we walk the buffet line of life trying every pot-sticker, mac & cheese, and chocolate ganache available hoping that the hunger would abate. Yet, it never seems to be enough.
Are you aware of this inconsolable longing? Where do you wish things would be better? Have you ever received the very thing you wanted only to discover it was unfulfilling?