Letters to Luthien

Letters to My Future Bride

Sehnsucht: A Longing Undefined

“I just can’t stand being alone.
Gonna have to change that some day.
There’s a restless feeling in my bones and I know,
That at times, it just won’t go away.
One thing I know, that when I turn out the light,
Visions of you, dear, dance in the night.
I’ve been put down, pushed around, apprehended and led down town.
And I can’t help it if I’m out of sight, but I’m restless tonight.”

– Alison Krauss

Dear Darling,

Is it wrong that I want something new out of life…and I don’t know what it is?

I want a moment of clarity or revelation. You know, the kind when everything becomes clear, and suddenly you know what you want most; one purpose shines above the rest and everything makes sense. Whatever it is, elevating, illuminating, awakening…I want it.

I don’t even know what I’d like it to be about.

Sometimes moments are exciting at the time but overall very boring. Sometimes they are boring at the time, but exciting in retrospect. I’d like to find more moments that are exciting at the time and when remembered…a feeling which is sharp and deep, not dull and surface.

There are two words that come to mind to describe this feeling: sehnsucht and zugunruhe.

Sehnsucht is an ethereal longing, an elusive, golden nostalgia for something you haven’t experienced but feel you were meant to experience. It’s a profound desire; a transcendent but transient dissatisfaction. The word is German, introduced into my vocabulary (and many others’) by C.S. Lewis who described it in a book as follows:

“It almost hurt me . . . like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying home . . . to find the place where all the beauty came from—my country, the place where I ought to have been born. The longing for home.”

Zugunruhe is another German word for a restless longing, an anxious migratory urge; “a pull of the soul to a far off place, following a scent in the wind, a star in the sky.”

It boils down to a cognitive dissonance, a mental discordance between something my mind tells me should exist and the reality that it doesn’t yet. My faith bids me trust, my body urges action, my mind and spirit bid me be steady. And those around me bid me to change my expectations or my actions. It sets up an internal conflict of sorts. Part of you is at war with another part of you, because part of you (or someone else) is telling you it should be different. And often the question arises, are my standards too high? Should I reach out and take the fruit within reach and cease a fantasy that better fruit exists “out there”? Or should I refuse compromise and “good enough” and wait for the best of the best, trusting it’s worth waiting for?

It’s not just romance, nor even happiness. It’s experience. It’s a desire for something to grip me, to reach down deep inside and meet me where I am, to make me feel…to be involuntarily.

But what? Is it achievement I crave? Love? Joy? Peace? Praise? Accomplishment?

People will sometimes tell me I’ve changed their life, or contributed to it significantly. Intuitively, I know this is true, and yet I fail to internalize it. I’m not sure if modesty brushes it off or pride accepts it as long overdue, but either way it seems somehow not to register fully. It should be a compliment worthy great joy, a soul-filling light of gratitude and satisfaction. And yet, if we stand before the throne and one by one tell our stories to all of heaven with perfected memory about the impact each person on our lives, I know my greatest anticipation is not to hear the things I didn’t know I did, but rather the pride in my Father’s face, to see God Almighty beaming like a proud father saying “that’s my boy.”

It’s my own fault. I’ve tried all my life to become impervious and unflappable, and be the man that kicks into gear when human nature freezes. That’s what I’m becoming, and it seems it comes with a price.

It’s funny how as a kid you look forward to the big things of being grown up, like getting your own mail or driving. Then when you get there, you pretend it’s not such a big deal because you don’t want to gloat or tip your hand. Likewise when something bad comes along, you put on your poker face and don’t show you’re hurting. In fact, when the worst comes along I put a smile on. I crack jokes and whistle. I figure anyone can smile when things are good, but you truly show your mettle when you smile or grin when the world is in shambles. And I know beyond a doubt that it is far more preferable to confront a negative situation together rather than a positive situation alone.

You are no substitute for heaven, Darling, but in a union which itself symbolizes the bond between Christ and His church, I think you’re the closest I shall ever come on earth. I can only surmise that the marriage is what I anticipate the most — both our union here on earth, and the marriage between our Lord and His flock.

I’m exhausted tonight from working two insanely hectic shifts at the hospital. My legs are scarcely restless, except in the literal sense of lacking rest. Even my mind is fatigued. Even so, it longs for experience beyond its own.

Perhaps as the year draws to a close, it is fitting that these thoughts should descend as well.

Love ever,
Beren

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December 30, 2012 - Posted by | Loneliness

1 Comment »

  1. […] and elated and passionate. Oftentimes, I’m just too doggone even-keeled and mature, too unflappable. One true observation the Lady Kirche made about me was that I’m comfortable with the epic […]

    Pingback by Sundry Thoughts for September, Pt. 2 « Letters to Luthien | September 27, 2013 | Reply


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