Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and to the storm within, and if ever we are to find true shelter, it is with the recognition of our tragic nakedness and need for true shelter that we have to start.
It is God with whom we have to do. People go for long stretches of time without being aware of that, thinking it is money, or sex, or work, or children, or parents, or a political cause, or an athletic competition, or learning with which they must deal. Any one or a combination of these subjects can absorb them and for a time give them the meaning and purpose that human beings seem to require. But then there is a slow stretch of boredom. Or a disaster. Or a sudden collapse of meaning. They want more. They want God. When a person searches for meaning and direction, asking questions and testing out statements, we must not be diverted into anything other or lesser.
I wonder if this very hunger we have to be loved is a sign of another kind: not of God’s transcendence, but of His immanence, His being with us. I wonder if our lovesickness is, in fact, God’s image, broken, gaunt but still potent, within us. It is the footfall or thumbprint of Another, evidence of Things Unseen, rumors of a Visitor in the camp.
All men and women hunger for God. The hunger is masked and misinterpreted in many ways, but it is always there. Everyone is on the verge of crying out “My Lord and my God!” but the cry is drowned out by doubt or defiance, muffled by the dull ache of their routines, masked by their cozy accommodations with mediocrity. Then something happens—a word, an event, a dream—and there is a push toward awareness of an incredible Grace, a dazzling Desire, a defiant hope, a courageous Faithfulness. But awareness, as such, is not enough. Untended, it trickles into religious sentimentalism or romantic blubbering. Or, worse, it hardens into patriotic hubris or pharisaic snobbery . . . the awareness [needs to get] past subjectivities and ideologies into the open and say “God.”
If you were to seriously engage any religious philosopher in conversation on the concept of love in other religious teachings you would probably be surprised at what surfaces. In Buddhism the very founder, Gautama Buddha, renounced his wife and family in search of inner peace. In Hinduism the concept of love is more that of pity. In Islam, at best, submission is demanded to a compassionate god, but the more one reads the workings of this compassionate god the more compassion seems a vacuous term. Only in the Christian faith is life with God always portrayed as a relationship of love. However, in Christian terms, love does not stand merely as an emotion or even an expression. In a relationship with God it ultimately flowers to worship. All earthly relationships as we know them will someday end. It is in worship alone that wonder and truth coalesce and our hearts become enriched by His love. That enrichment which results from worship feeds all other relationships and helps us to hold sacred our commitments. This concept is far too profound to ignore . . .
D. H. Lawrence was right when he said the deepest hunger of the human heart goes beyond love—Jesus called that “beyond” worship. And Wolfe was right; there is that sense of cosmic loneliness apart from God. Jesus said, “I have come that [you] may have life, and that [you] may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV). In Christ that loneliness is conquered as the hungers of the human heart are met and the struggles of the intellect are answered.
You will sometimes hear the line (often misattributed to G.K. Chesterton) that the man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God. Obviously the statement should not be taken as meaning that the man hopes that God will be the one who greets him at the door. The message is rather that people who are looking for ultimate fulfillment in the quest for pleasure or wealth or power or any other element or aspect of creation will not find it in these things.