Ghost Ship

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I wrote this after talking to a dear friend of mine with three kids who has been married for a long time. It has been a hard road for her. She started crying and said “Kate, you don’t know how much I envy your life.” At first I bristled. I envy other people’s lives so much, how could anyone envy mine? But it got me thinking. I do have a beautiful life, and I do have things in my life I could never have without a family, no matter how much I don’t want to admit it. I have been more positive about my life ever since then, and am trying to walk on a journey towards “home.” Hope you enjoy it.

For many years, I spent my life on the shore, watching, waiting.

Like a million stories told through a hundred generations, I was searching the horizon, looking for someone to come home to me. A companion to walk with. A witness to my life.

I imagined that we would meet on the shore in a glorious homecoming. He would run towards me and spin me around, making me dizzy with his love. That would be the moment that all the minutes before had led up to, the moment that all the minutes after would never forget.

We would walk hand in hand down the road marked out for us. And when we reached our destination, we would build up our love story around us like a warm shelter.

But years passed. No matter how hard I looked, no matter how fervently I prayed, I did not see that ship coming in. I clenched my cold hands and continued watching on the waterfront, dreaming of the beautiful phantom life that was not mine.

I stood shivering on the shore for a long time. I began to realize that the ship, the parallel existence that I had hoped to start living long ago, was a ghost ship. It was perfect, but only because it was elusive. It was beautiful, but only because it was not really there.

I am cold now. I am ready to go somewhere that will hide me from the storm. And so I have a choice-to stay here and watch or to step away from the waiting. Perhaps for a little while, perhaps for the rest of my life. I have a choice turn my head from the sea and take a slow walk towards a home that I can build for myself right now, today. A decision that will be a beginning and an ending all at once.

The road will be unspeakably beautiful and deeply painful, just like the journey I would have walked in my parallel life. It will be full of love and full of loneliness, just as it would have been on the sister ship that I never got to ride.

In the end, the path I walk on might not lead me to a home with the arms of a husband or the laughter of children, a reality that may always be difficult for me.

But I can still put flowers in a vase so I can remember small, beautiful things. I can still bake bread and hear laughter around the table. I can still build a fire and press my face against the window pane, welcoming the lonely traveler home.

I can wait for that ghost ship forever, or I can go home and build something beautiful. It may never be easy. The longing may never go away.  But perhaps God will teach me how to long and let go at the very same time.

In the end, I don’t want to live in a parallel life that will disappear if I try to touch it. I want to walk out the tangible story that God has set before me today.

Even if  I never find the love story that I anticipated, I might find a love story that I didn’t expect. A different kind of love story.

A story that leads me home.

What dreams have you had that never came true?

How did you respond to those unmet desire?

Do you think you can long and let go at the same time?

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The Longing and the Mystery

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Sehnsucht– A huge and painfully unrequited yearning to find and touch the mystery. An extreme desire for a far off country you have never been to. A deep and insatiable desire for a home that you haven’t yet had. 

This German word is very hard to define in any language. But when you read the definition you know exactly what it means, don’t you? You can conjure up the feeling associated with the word because you feel it every day. It is a hidden desire  running under your skin even as you go to the bank and sweep the floor and buy your groceries. It’s the aching and mystery that arises as you mourn over your singleness or are reminded that your marriage is not all you hoped it would be. It is the faint pain like bruising on your skin that grows more beautiful and more painful as you get older because of the wisdom and the regrets that are birthed from the days you have walked.

This word has been on my mind since my last session with my counselor. I was talking to her about my recent visit to my college town and the longing I now had  for that season, the longing  I had for men that I dated in that season that I gave up on. The wishing I had done things differently. The wanting to go back to that mysterious place and make different choices. The deep desire to revisit the essence of the nostalgia I was feeling in order to live it out in the present moment.

She said to me “did you like being there while you were there? Were you happy?” I couldn’t remember. I found it ironic that I longed for a place that I missed now, but I didn’t even notice it while I was there.

“Kate,” my counselor said “you have always had this deep sense of longing, of dissatisfaction, even of suffering. You had it then, you have it now. Even if you one day finally have children and a husband, you will still have it. You can’t escape the longing. ”

I knew she was right. I can’t escape this longing, this desire for a place I have never been to. Because I am human. Because I was born with that longing. It has been said that no other creature is as inherently dissatisfied as the human being. But I don’t think it’s our fault. I think it’s part of our nature.

In fact, I would argue that this sensucht, this deep longing for somewhere we’ve never been, is evidence for the existence of heaven, evidence for the existence of God. Can an atheist argue against his insatiable desire for home? Can an agnostic ignore the fire down in his bones saying that he was made for more than the life he is living?

Psalm 84:5 says “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.” Another translations says “in whose heart are the highways to Zion.” Our hearts are set on pilgrimage, a long, beautiful, painful journey that will end in a glorious homecoming. Our hearts have highways to Zion in them, and after many years of walking those highways with perseverance, we will reach that mountain in which the glory of the Lord dwells, where all of our desires behind our sehnsucht will be realized.

CS Lewis’ was all but obsessed with the idea of sehsucht, the idea of looking for True North. In his book The Problem of Pain he says

All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it—tantalizing glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest—if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself—you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for.”

One day, at the end of your journey, you will say these words. “Here at last is the thing I was made for.”

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