Experiencing God, Part 2: Common Longings and Connections

The second in a series.

Sometimes you experience a desire for God in very common situations: for example, standing silently in the snowy woods on a winter's day, finding yourself moved to tears during a movie, recognizing a strange sense of connection during a church service -- and feeling an inexpressible longing to savor this feeling and understand what it is.

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In the years after my sister gave birth to my first nephew, I often felt overwhelmed with love when I was with him. Here was a beautiful new child, a person who had never existed before, given to the world. One day I came home from a visit to their house and was so filled with love that I wept -- out of gratitude, out of joy, and out of wonder. At the same time I longed to connect more with the mysterious source of this joy.

Common longings and heartfelt connections are ways of becoming conscious of the desire for God. We yearn for an understanding of feelings that seem to come from outside of us. We experience what the 16th-century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross calls the desire for "I know not what."

Many of us have had experiences like this. We feel that we are standing on the brink of something important, on the edge of experiencing something just beyond us. We experience wonder. So why don't you hear more about these times?

Because many times we ignore them, reject them, or deny them. We chalk them up to being overwhelmed, overwrought, overly emotional. "Oh, I was just being silly!" you might say to yourself. So you disregard that longing you feel of the first breath of a spring breeze on your face after a long dark winter, because you tell yourself (or others tell you) that you were simply being emotional. This happens even to those practiced in the spiritual life: often, after an intense experience in prayer during a retreat, people are tempted to dismiss it as simply something that "just happened."

Read the rest here.

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