Sabbatical Reflections: Sehnsucht (Part 2 of 2)

So, what prevents us from pursuing and finding this great Joy?

The apostle Paul provides a clue when he writes about what theologians call general revelation. In his letter to the Christians in Rome he says (Romans 1: 18- 25, The Message):

18 But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth.
19 But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!
20 By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.
21 What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.
22 They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.
23 They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
24 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out.
25 And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!

What is described here is the great exchange – people exchange the worship of God for the worship of nature (pantheism) and mankind (secular humanism). They exchange the truth for a lie.  In this, they deny everything that they have been made for. They live in a world of their own making, a world of illusion. However, they do not cease to worship, or to long for the place they were made for. They deny that God is the object of their longing, and in denying God they deny the wonder of their own existence.

In his remarkable book, The Evidential Power of Beauty: Theology and Beauty Meet, Catholic Friar Thomas Dubay describes what happens when people exchange the truth for a lie.  Quoting from one of the characters in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “to live without God is nothing but torture . . . Man cannot live without kneeling . . . If he rejects God, he kneels before an idol of wood or of gold or an imaginary one . . . They are all idolaters and not atheists. That’s what they ought to be called.”[1]

The important thing to see here is that there are no atheists. We were all made by God; we were all made to worship. If we do not worship the living God, then we worship an idol, a god of our own making. The Psalmist records this phenomenon (Psalm 115:2-8):

2 Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.
4 But their idols are silver and gold,
made by the hands of men.
5 They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but they cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but they cannot smell;
7 they have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but they cannot walk;
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
8 Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.

What stands in the way of our worship of the Creator God? One word: pride! Pride keeps us from bowing. To respond to the longing, the Sehnsucht, is to bow down before the living God. To reach out for that answer means admitting that we are not the center of the universe. We are sinners before the face of the Holy God. We cannot save ourselves. To worship the living God demands humility.

Friar Dubay captures this when he writes: “ Wonder at reality demands the humility to sit at the foot of a dandelion. The proud are so full of themselves that there is little room to marvel at anything else.  Saints are typically awestruck at an insect, a flower, a star because they are burning with love and rooted in a perceiving honesty. That is, they are humble.”

“Oh Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee.”

-Darrow L. Miller


[1] Thomas Dubay, The Evidential Power of Beauty, pg 74

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Equipping the Church to transform the world
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