Even when we don’t
acknowledge it, human beings long for God.
I believe that we’re born with a desire for the divine. St. Augustine’s well-known prayer voices this
longing: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless
until they find rest in thee.” So do
these words from the nineteenth-century Congregationalist Horace Bushnell: “We
are made so as to want God, just as a child’s nature wants a mother and father
. . . There is a hungering and a heaving in us.” Twentieth century theologian Paul Tillich
said: “God is present. . . as the unknown force in us that makes us restless.” We
were made to thirst for wonder, crave mystery, and yearn for love, desires
which draw us toward the Holy.
root of many of the needs we feel; but meeting those “felt needs” might or
might not satisfy the deeper desires which give rise to them. A feeling of need can make us aware that
something is missing or incomplete or wounded in us. But, the feeling of need doesn’t always
contain enough wisdom to guide us to its real fulfillment.
truest and deepest needs actually are. We might think we need a balanced life,
when what we need more urgently is to ask if the life we’re living is the life
we’re meant to live. We think we want better
strategies and techniques for doing everything we have to
do, when what we really need is to evaluate whether the things we’re trying to
do are worth doing in the first place.
We feel that we need solutions—ways to cope—when what we need is
salvation, a way to be changed. We want to rearrange life to make it more
comfortable; what we need is a transformed life that is more meaningful. We think we need answers to our questions,
but what we really need is someone who knows and cares for us to question our
questions. As Thomas Merton said of
the Bible, “If we ask it for information about the meaning of life, it answers
by asking us when we intend to start living.”