It was the year I was ten when I first felt it – the shapeless ache in my stomach for something more. I didn’t know why it was there – or what it was – that night as I climbed into bed to the sounds of chatting relatives and the last dishes from Christmas dinner being washed. I had enjoyed the day thoroughly, I had a pile of new presents next to me, it felt silly and selfish to want more. But I did. My countdown loaded with anticipation and excitement had led to this day and it had come and gone and I was going to sleep unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
I’m not sure when I learned that this was called post-Christmas blues and it was a normal thing to experience after any long-expected event. And I’m not sure when I learned that Christmas isn’t the only thing that led up to a let down. But it didn’t take me long to realize that looking forward to something and then not feeling complete when it arrives is a core part of the human existence.
Walking through this life on earth is about walking in insatiable desire. We are ravenous creatures, perpetually hungry for more, desperately aching for something to fill us up and then keep us full. We look for different methods to cover this unquenchable thirst – soul-mates, meaningful careers, luxury vacations, dream houses, children to pour our hearts into. All are good things, sometimes so good we think for a moment we’ve found the answer. And then the illusion is broken, the curtain is stripped down, and we are again face to face with the void that just won’t be filled. Christmas day is over and no matter how high the stack of presents got it is not enough.
I want a trite Christian answer to this ache for more. I want a three step guide to letting Jesus be enough. And Christmas comes and I think, maybe, this will be it. This celebration of the coming of our Savior. But year after year it comes and goes and I’m ten again, crawling into bed as all the happiness and good cheer of the day slowly leaks out of the holes in my heart.
“We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.” – Madeleine L’Engle
What if the Advent season isn’t about filling a desire as much as it is about awakening a desire?
What if God actually isn’t here to fill every single crevice in our hungry souls? He offers peace and freedom and joy and meaning and all the things about the abundant life. But what if these holes, those gaps, that shapeless ache in the depths of our bellies for something more are left intentionally?
Blessed are those who hunger, he says.
It’s the lot of all of us wandering through this broken world. It won’t always be this way, there will be a day when Christ returns and His kingdom is established and all this desperate hunger gnawing away at our souls will be met with unmeasurable fulness. But he has ensured that until that day arrives we stay perpetually unsatisfied.
He wants us to want something more, because he is preparing something more.
Blessed are those who hunger for they will be filled.
The more acute the need to be filled, the more you feel your desperation for the coming of the Messiah, the the more you will rejoice when at last he arrives.
Maybe we can lean into all these insatiable desires this season. Maybe we can stop hiding them under festivities and tinsel and pretense.
Let’s instead sit in the gaps a few minutes longer these next weeks. Let’s allow ourselves a minute to recognize where it feels hallow, to name how it isn’t perfect, to admit how it still feels a little empty. Let’s not be so anxious to fix everything up and make it alright. Let’s be at rest with the reality that it isn’t all right, there’s some things that are wrong. Very wrong.
It’s good for your soul to stretch out your arms as far as you can reach and feel nothing but emptiness, to grasp at nothing but air.
Because if we never allow ourselves to be hungry we can never know the sweetness it is to be filled.