A few weeks ago, I was in Kansas City for a concert. A few of my friends from college live up there so I spent most of my time with them learning about their lives. During that time, I ended up meeting a lot of their friends and talking to them. The bulk of those conversations went the same way, talking about where we’re from, where we went to school, what our major was, so on and so on.
I talked to one girl for a while when she asked, what my job was. So, I gave her my full job title of “Associate Director of Student Ministries at Central United Methodist Church.” My friend then chimed in, “Yeah, he’s a youth pastor.”
Everything got uncomfortably silent for a few seconds before she said, “Oh… well that must be really… rewarding.” Then she walked off. The conversation was done.
Now, I am not ashamed of working in full-time ministry or of my relationship with Jesus. I genuinely love my job. But it doesn’t exactly come with a lot of social capital. For some reason, it isn’t the sort of job title that draws people in or impresses them, which sometimes bothers me.
I want to be impressive and for people to think highly of me. I want to be desirable. I’m not proud to admit it, but truthfully, I want people to be envious of me.
I believe a lot of this is rooted in a longing to be entirely secure in my life and know where it is going. I like to think I’m not alone in this desire. I’m 23, single, and a year into my working life and, I feel I must prove myself and find a sense of belonging in the world.
I know the bulk of my peers are as flawed and confused as I am. But, for some reason I still seek their validation and approval to try to feel entirely satisfied with my life. So, I try to make people think I’m smarter than I am…or funnier…or more accomplished…or that I have some grand vision for my future. I find myself constantly jockeying for attention and approval, and acting as if people think something of me, I can find some sort of completion and wholeness. But, it won’t work.
I may overcome the challenges and insecurities I face now, but there will always be new ones raising up. Right now, I’m trying to figure out what my calling is in life, how to make a living doing that, and what type of person I want to marry. But even if I find a way that resolves those questions, I know only more complicated challenges will present themselves to me like balancing an increasingly busy life, raising a family, and even preparing for retirement. In the big picture, it seems like there’ll never be a point where I feel completely content.
Paul wrote that our lives on earth are a tent and our eternity with Christ is a house. He also said that if we are in our tent, we will feel burdened, groaning to be in the house. This resonates with me. I would hate living in a tent when I know I could be in a home. Tents aren’t terrible. But, I think tents would be cold and wet sometimes. And, there would be no outlet for me to plug my space heater into. I guess what I’m suggesting is that living in the tent would be frustrating and defeating. I would desperately want to be in the house instead.
Growing up, I always heard how there was a hole in my heart shaped in a way that only Christ could fill it. Everything else – like relationships, admiration, success, or even comfort – wouldn’t do it. It would be like trying to cram a square block into a circle hole. At the time, that made sense to me, but it doesn’t anymore. I’m not trying to say it isn’t a helpful idea. It points to how only Christ can satisfy and how He alone is the solution to the longings we experience. What I am finding though is there no complete solution to the longings I feel. Even in my closest moments to Jesus, I still can feel that I’m not home yet. No matter how much you decorate and reinforce a tent, it’ll never be a house.
I’m learning to be content and to face the longings I experience in life instead of trying to extinguish them. I am also growing to believe that the longings we feel were never meant to be satisfied. And maybe telling ourselves and other people that we are is what causes us to chase after all of these other vain pursuits. Because if we believe following Jesus will get rid of all our heartache and then it doesn’t, we will be tempted to search until we find something that does. But, the wholeness we so desperately seek only comes when we find ourselves in eternity.
Maybe that’s the point of the longing: To keep us looking to eternity where we will finally be perfectly content and home with God. Paul also said that it was only by looking to our future reality that we would live in the way God meant us to. The longings we experience are a constant reminder that even though we may live in a tent now that our eventual destination is the house. After all, a tent isn’t meant to be a permanent home.
Associate Director of Student Ministries