Naming Your Longing, Not Always Getting It: A Lesson from Advent

My daughters vie each night to flick the BIC lighter for our Advent candles. They know it may be another twelve months before they’re allowed to touch it again. Likely, next year, we’ll also spend four weeks reading Bible stories and proclaiming “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

Each Advent, we name our longing for Jesus’ second coming. But we don’t give up the following year. We raise the same prayers when our desires have not been fulfilled.

This is one lesson from Advent. We practice naming our deepest longing even when it’s not rewarded to the fullness we want

—Jesus as tangible.

But it’s easy for me to be tempted by two assumptions about my others longings—fearing them or assuming their fulfillment is my most authentic self.

Assumption 1: Fearing Longing

I grew up feeling selfish if I had longings outside of Jesus (as if Jesus couldn’t be in other longings). My big longing I smashed down as a single person was that I desperately wanted to be married. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there, and it would then burst out in front of a guy through some awkwardness and I would skitter away like a scared rabbit.

Once I learned to name that longing, to bring it before God daily and a few friends occasionally, I became much more at ease with single male friends, less fearful. But most of all hopeful that God did care about my heart.

But what about illicit longings? Should they be feared?

I long for what others have—I am envious. When I was young, envy was so strong that it felt like hatred, especially for those girls in high school who had the expensive haircuts, confident articulation, and a sense of style (albeit—ankle-rolled Calvin Klein jeans and silver-chained necklaces) that I wanted. My shame kept me from naming my longing, but I certainly made spiteful comments about members of the popular clique.

As I’m older, my envy is more about wanting the respect that others have in similar roles as mine—mothers, teachers, and writers. Envy for me is insidious, and yet when I catch myself falling into it when I make undeserved sarcastic comments, it’s an opportunity. An opportunity to confess, to name the respect I want and to know in a vulnerable place, perhaps connected to childhood emotional wounds, God has grace. There is an intimacy with Him.

Assumption 2: Seeing Fulfilled Longing as “Authentic” Identity

This is me being authentic—being genuine, showing you I don’t have my stuff together by naming my longings.

But the fulfillment of my longings can falsely tempt me as living out my truest self.

I idolize the calling of writing. “I’m a writer. I should get to write more!” I want to cry resentfully to God. I’ve mistaken being “true to myself”—another definition of authenticity –as fulfilling what I want. Instead, being true to myself is honoring God’s current ordering of my situation. In His handiwork, He’s blessed me with two kids—who need me when they’re home from school.

The words of a favorite psalm are “Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3, NASB). The “land” I live in is one with my husband, kids, and a house that requires some attention.

My authentic identity in Christ requires faithfulness

to my family that can feel like a sacrifice of fulfilled longings. Yet a true identity in Christ is not pretending my desires are no longer there but rather naming them and asking Him to hold them.

Longing is hard.

And yet we’re to name the longing and keep hoping, knowing that ultimately every longing will be met in Jesus’ return.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Heather Walker Peterson

Along with being a mother to two young and remarkably different daughters, Heather Walker Peterson is a member of Redbud Writers Guild and Chair of the Department of English and Literature at University of Northwestern-Saint Paul.
Heather Walker Peterson

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