This evening I huffed and puffed up the big hill in my neighborhood toward a horizon drenched in honeyed light. I stepped over scuttling baby lizards, past tall gates covered in climbing jasmine, and smiled at the lady watering flowers under the giant wooden cross that stands erect in her front yard.
As I walked through this peaceful quiet I noticed my deep thoughts were punctuated by even deeper sighs; my shoulders were rigidly tense and the muscles around my chest were slowly tightening around my steadily beating heart, and I realized I was waiting for something.
With this realization came a flood of realizations—that I'd been sighing deep yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, and I've been living as if I am waiting for something.
It doesn't take long for me to identify the things I'm waiting for. I'm waiting for spring semester when I'll hopefully be healthy enough to resume my philosophy classes after taking this semester off; I'm waiting to finish my degree so I can get a Ph.D. so I have more teaching prospects; I'm waiting for the floor to get mopped so I can put my feet up, the papers to get graded so I can read a book, the weekend to end so I can resume teaching, and the work week to end so I can resume resting; I'm waiting for the day my body is healthy enough to go hiking at sunrise and running at sunset; and, if I'm honest, I'm waiting for the day I meet a man who makes my heart quicken and my soul stand in awe of a God who gives good husbandly gifts. And I know that what I'm really waiting for is a life that looks the way I think it should.
I didn't do this when I was a kid. When I was a kid I had a settled contentedness, and although I sometimes burst into a heartfelt rendition of Pocahontas' "Just Around the River Bend," I wasn't thinking about the bend in life's road—or river—that brings surprising, and sometimes jarring and undesirable changes. I was living in the here and now, soaking up the gifts of the present.
Sometime before I joined the ranks of the double digit folk I had a few adults tell me I'd grow into an adult and wish I were a kid again, and so I determined to live it up in my youth. I climbed the highest trees, ate the stickiest candy, explored the wildest corners of the neighborhood, and rollerbladed down the steepest hills. I enjoyed years of this childhood reverie, and then I stepped quietly into adulthood, my soul popping with over-the-top ambition and swollen with starry-eyed dreams, and I started to sigh deep heavy sighs.
The thing about ambition is it's elusive—our imaginations whisper of greater victories and more satisfying conquests; and the thing about dreams is they're not bound by time they way we are. And these grand imaginations and eternal dreams of ours, they're shadows of Another World that beckons our sighing souls; they are the signposts that declare "You're not made for here!...you are not made for here!...you are not made for here."
These heavenly shadows remind me that my life was supposed to look different than it does. My soul was created to delight in God's unveiled glory in a Paradise untarnished by human narcissism and rebellion. My imaginative mind was created to drink deep from the Fount of all Wisdom and Knowledge, and my heart was created to commune with the Creator God's in a state of deepest, eternal satisfaction. And so I know, when I sigh deep and restless, I am really longing for the home I haven't seen, for the place God is preparing for those who love him.
I think perhaps Pocahontas gives us an apt reminder as we journey toward our heaven-home (!). This home, whose earthly echoes awaken aching desires, is waiting unseen around a distant bend on the Way of Jesus. It is the culmination of this journey; the last and greatest destination on a thrilling and tiring pilgrimage. Heaven—seeing Jesus face to face—is not something we just sit around and wait for, and it's not something totally disconnected from and unrelated to the terrain we traverse today, and tomorrow, and the day after. It is something we move toward now, in this fleeting present.
Today we make it our greatest ambition to drink deep from the Fount of Wisdom so that we one day recognize his voice that roars like raging waters....
...We remember that the Object of our greatest and truest desire lives in us, walks with us, and fights for us; and He is the only one who can satisfy....
...We fix our eyes on the glorious truth that Immanuel, God with us, is preparing for us a home that is a Divine Kingdom, and this Divine Kingdom is being established among us, here on earth: Now, in this moment....
...Today we, the Saints, get to build this eternally victorious Kingdom in the power of the Spirit and the presence of Jesus. And when our bodies grow tired and our minds grow weak, when our days seem dull and understated and we're tempted to heave deep and heavy sighs, we let the Father teach our lungs to inhale grace and exhale gratitude, because these are the air of heaven.