A Believer’s Longing

My favorite season is fall.

It’s such a beautiful in-between time.  The leaves, dusky red and blaze orange, are still clinging to trees, or fluttering down, but not gone–not yet.  The mornings are crisp and bracing, but the sun warms the afternoon, and you can wear sweaters without reaching for parkas or gloves.  The sharp scent of apples fills the air and the squirrels and birds are always at their work.

But it’s such a brief season.

I’m not a big Robert Frost fan, but every time I take my morning walks and breathe in the air, I remember the lines of his poem Nothing Gold Can Stay:

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day,

Nothing gold can stay.

I was thinking of that during my most recent walk, realizing that in a matter of months I will be looking at stripped-bare trees, tall and naked against the sky, and mounds of snow covering the ground.  The flowers will be gone, the squirrels will be quiet, and I’ll long for the turn of the wheel until it becomes spring again, and then summer, and then fall once more.  I always feel the realization that the perfect right now won’t last forever, that the onset of winter will spark a longing in me until the seasons change once more.

It makes me wonder what Adam and Eve must have felt when they were expelled from Eden.  The Bible explains the depth and breadth of their curse, but I wonder about what isn’t written: did they long for home once they left it?  Could they remember it clearly?  Did the break in their once-pure communication with God render them unable to recall it clearly, as it was?  As time passed and years went by and their human bodies failed them, did they still retain a hazy memory of what it had been like? In what was surely the winter of their years, did they experience a quiet but desperate longing for the vivid seasons they held dearer?

I suspect that all humans experience that longing, that our desperation for that early and unbroken communion with God has been coded into our DNA.  I hear it in the cries of little children, far from home, who want nothing more than to go back to a place that, to them, means safety and comfort.  I heard it in the voices of my grandmothers as they approached the end of their lives, their interest no longer entirely with the living and their hearts focused on what would come after their final departure from these shores.  I feel it myself in fall, and sometimes at the change of seasons, and several times in Ireland: in places where I have one of those brief, aching glimpses of who God is and what His love is like, and want with all my whole being to see the rest of it.

And we will.  We will, eventually.  That is the truth that is promised in Revelation 21:3:

God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

But for now, we continue on, and the longing does not abate.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us that God has “set eternity in the human heart” – we’re meant always to yearn for, as C.S. Lewis put it, our home country.  So the next time you feel that melancholy tug, or that longing to be elsewhere, neither grieve it nor allow it to overwhelm your focus on God’s work here.  Simply recognize it, and accept it for what it is: a reminder.

Home is waiting just ahead.

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