The Solitude of Longing

The word long seems to pervade December. A long year is coming to a close. The longest night of the year makes our hearts anxious for the dawn. We celebrate the birth of our long-expected Jesus. We long for the crisp beginning of a new year. When Advent arrives, we long for the second coming of our Savior. Creation itself waits with eager longing for the children of God to be revealed.

One of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs, “Come Healing,” hints at this:

Behold the gates of mercy

In arbitrary space

And none of us deserving

The cruelty or the grace

O solitude of longing

Where love has been confined

Come healing of the body

Come healing of the mind

The words are wistful, the melody a heavy lullaby. The phrase “solitude of longing” sticks with me and I find myself puzzling over it. I can’t tell you what Cohen meant by it, but I know longing is deeply personal, visceral, secret, and haunting. Deep hunger can be lonely and isolating. It can wind itself around our hearts and squeeze the life out of us. We long for the healing of our bodies, restoration of relationships, and for dark nights to turn into bright days. We yearn for belonging, meaning, rescue, and relief. Cohen ends his song with another verse:

O longing of the branches

To lift the little bud

O longing of the arteries

To purify the blood

Like the branches long to push buds into blooms, we pine, like Isaiah, for the new heavens and the new earth where “the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.” (Isaiah 65:17-21)

There will be building of houses and planting of vineyards, wild animals will lie down with livestock, and there will be no more weeping. Until then we must cling to the truth and power of these words and keep pushing the seeds of that day back into the soil of our hearts until it is steadfastly rooted in our being. Come, Lord Jesus, joy of every longing heart. Come soon.


Tammy Perlmutter
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6 thoughts on “The Solitude of Longing

  1. This is beautiful. I really liked the part about pushing the seeds back into the soil of our hearts. Thank you.

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