I have this insatiable thirst for God. In the morning it is a quiet presence hovering in my heart, inviting me to rest without words or ideas. By evening it becomes a wild fire that burns and brightens with each moment. Each activity, conversation and thought only increases its vigor. The longer I live the stronger it becomes. It is impossible to extinguish.
Sometimes when I visit a new place I wonder what life would be like living here. I daydream about its mountains, its lakes, its people, or its small towns and I imagine myself living there devoid of problems and annoyances. I think that living here, in this place, I could be perfectly happy and content. Yet as time goes by, I realize that this place, in all its wonder and beauty, is not the ultimate place where my heart can rest. It is, after all, limited.
Sometimes when I meet a new person I can get lost in the excitement of their presence. What insights will they reveal to me about myself, what experiences will I share with them that can help me feel more fulfilled, or even what material gifts might they give me to enable me to enjoy life more fully? If the benefits are great I can begin to think that the reason my life was “lacking” before was because this person was absent from my life. Yet, as time goes by, I realize that this person, despite being a blessing is, like me, limited.
Sometimes when I am engaged in apostolic work, whether it is preaching or serving the homeless, I can begin to think that if only I could do what I felt called to when I want and how I feel called to do it, that I would no longer become frustrated or disappointed with life. The reason, of course, for my frustration, is because my superiors, my family, my friends, etc. don’t understand the gifts God has given me, or so I think. Yet, as time goes by, and when I have the opportunity to do what I want, when I want and how I want to do it and even call it “God’s will,” I realize that even this, with all of its certitude and applause, is limited.
Speaking of the human heart the prophet Jeremiah says, “Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Though I would never raise my hand and say, “I do,” there is one thing that I do know about my own heart: it is thirsting. My heart is thirsting for something beyond rest, affirmation, comfort, prestige, popularity and anything else that this world can give. Of all the foolish decisions I have made in my life perhaps the most foolish one is thinking, and even expecting, that some “thing” of this world can satisfy me.
A helpful comparison to understand just how silly this endeavor is would be to compare it to trying to empty out the ocean with a bucket. Something that big, the ocean (our human heart), can never be captured by something as small as a bucket (this world). The problem lies in the vast differences of size. One is large, spacious and seemingly infinite while the other is small, rigid and finite. Yet even though I recognize the utter stupidity of such an attempt I, and I would say we, continue to try.
The dilemma, as I see it, is not that rest, friendship, our own gifts and talents or anything else of this world is bad; but they can never satisfy us completely. God, in his great mercy, never allows us to experience complete fulfillment in this world. He keeps inspiring us to go beyond this transitory world in which everything is vulnerable and exposed to change and to embrace the One who “laid the foundation of the earth,” (Job 38:4) who “was in the beginning…(in whom) all things were made” (John 1:2-3) and whose “years have no end.” (Psalm 102:27).
I do this not when I abandon the world but when I receive this world as a gift and allow all of its joy and beauty to take me beyond itself to the One in whom I can find a permanent resting place. This is why I say that I have an insatiable thirst for God, because, despite the glamor and promises of this world, no matter where I travel, who I meet and what I do, in the end it is simply not enough.
+ Fr. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR