In Which We Talk About ‘Longing’

One year ago I wrote a piece called “An Unappeased Yearning to Return.” The piece was based on the roots of the word ‘nostalgia.’

The responses were beautiful – thoughtful, poignant, true. They were your voices! You all expressed so much. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t happy, it doesn’t mean that you are maladjusted, it doesn’t mean that you pine daily in a back room, longing for the past. It just means that you loved a place and the people in that place and there are times when you need to express it.

So here are your voices from that post. Thank you for your words!

minarets-at-dusk quote

“...it isn’t really that we want the country we left behind. We just want all of the perfect things to be able to come together in one place. And the fact that they can’t is like putting together a puzzle that’s missing half of the pieces.” Bryana Joy

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“The yearning for me is for another time and another place. The hard thing is to know that even if I was to physically go back to Pakistan, those memories will not be present because buildings have changed, people have moved on. There’s a sense of loss in that those things can never be gone back to, never recaptured or re-experienced, even if other new and equally enjoyable things are in their place.” Sophie from Little Gumnut

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“Sometimes the longing is so strong, it takes my breath away. For the places, for the people, for the way things used to be. But, as you say, most of the time, it is under the surface and I tick along doing all the things I’m meant to do and being happy about them. The longing is an undercurrent, but we can’t let it pull us under. It can most certainly be a gift if it reminds us to reach out to others who may be in danger of drowning.” Stacy from Food Lust, People Love

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“Seems the roots of my Nostalgia always lead me to my Identity. And if I am no longer “there”, that place I can no longer BE, am I still who I thought I was?? Of course, the question is rhetorical – So I sit, perhaps at my computer at work, gazing past the grey earth, shorn of its snow-mantle, seeing beyond the un-born spring, into the past. The nostalgia emerges. A mist-covered lake. – I guess the difficult thing about identity is that those we love can never truly know who we are and from where we came. Because our journey is jut that. Our own. It can feel isolating. But I choose to nurture the compassion that thrives in nostalgic soil, allowing it to drive me to connect with others. To hear.

Their story. Their song.

All because there is One Who does know me. And because there will be a time when I will know, even as I am Known.” Sylvia

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“I have never admitted this, but I used to get the sick-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach homesickness until well into my 20’s. I don’t know why, but I do often feel the longing for what “no longer is”, and sometimes I feel a longing but I’m not even sure what for!” Hillary

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“The Orthodox understanding of the Fall in Genesis is more about yearning than about guilt – it is this sense that there IS somewhere we fully belong, but this is not quite it. And I think your point about embracing nostalgia as something that can connect us to others and make us more compassionate is so good. It is easy to feel that unusual experiences set one apart, but the truth is that EVERYONE experiences loss and yearning, we are ALL travelers far from home.” Thea Wallace

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“I have a longing to return to Pakistan or even India that I don’t see any way of fulfilling. In part I satisfied that longing by writing “Captives of Minara,” and in part when we make curry or have the family together and get samosas. Partly it eases when we go to an South Asian restaurant.” Eric Wright

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“Recently, I am experiencing this [longing] from the perspective of a mom whose sons have grown up and started their adult lives. Looking back at pictures of a time and a family (our family) to which there is no returning. The gift is in knowing what we shared…and the places and faces with which we shared our family times. And in the yearning for what we shared comes a prayer for what I hope lives on inside each of them to share with the friends and family they have join them on their journeys through life.” Delana

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“A dear friend, a sister in the faith, is dying. She is so ready to go HOME, home to be with Jesus. As I was dropping off to sleep last night, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. I thought of her daughter who died years ago at 27, the 2 stillborn grandsons she never saw, of her husband gone for several years. Such a joyful reunion to be anticipating. Most of all I thought of her finally being face to face with Jesus, the Savior she has loved and served. So my tears were mixed, tears of joy for my sister, my friend and tears for the pain and loss of death.
Does this sound disconnected from this post on nostalgia, that pain of longing for some other place? I believe our longings, our nostalgia in this life are related to that deeper longing for a permanent place, a longing that God has put into our hearts.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” Ecclesiastes 3:11″ Polly Brown aka my mom

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“Just today I read a quote by Barbara Brown Taylor (Learning to Walk in the Dark) that goes along with this thought. ‘After so many years of trying to cobble together a way of thinking about God that makes sense so that I can safely settle down with it, it all turns to noda. There is no permanently safe place to settle. I will always be at sea, steering by stars. Yet as dark as this sounds, it provides relief, because it now sounds truer than anything that came before.’ Amen to Ecclesiastes 3:11.” Bettie Addleton

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“I particularly loved this line and paragraph, ‘But for more people it sits in the soul, under the surface, not affecting activities of daily living, but silently accompanying us wherever we go.’ – that’s so true, and I’m glad you reminded me that it’s ok to feel this. Thank you for reassuring me that I can feel that longing but still be present where I am, that they do not negate one another. Sometimes we forget that, so thank you for reminding me of this: ‘we can be content and well-adjusted to a place and yet still have a longing for the places we came from, the places where we will never return.'” Dounia from TCKNextStop

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So there you have it – your voices, your thoughts, written to encourage all of us. Thank you! 

Others – what would you add to the topic of nostalgia and longing? You can take a look at the original post here. 

6 thoughts on “In Which We Talk About ‘Longing’

  1. Beautiful! I’m glad I’m not alone. I recently wrote something similar on my blog -there’s always the longing for home or the longing for “there”. Hope this is ok to share here, would love to hear what others think -www.lulukangaroo.com

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  2. I, too, have had this longing to return for many years. The summer before I was a Senior in high school, I moved to Kenya where my father had gotten work in his field after a year of unemployment in the US. I did NOT want to move again, least of all 1/2 way around the world to Africa! However, I fell in love with Kenya and have always wanted to return. Of course, it won’t be the same after 40+ years, and with all the violence and unrest, I can all but guarantee I will never return. It would be too dangerous, so I am content to share my memories, dream my dream of what might have been, and Thank God that I got to go live in Kenya as well as Zaire.

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  3. I love this quote best of all:

    “The Orthodox understanding of the Fall in Genesis is more about yearning than about guilt – it is this sense that there IS somewhere we fully belong, but this is not quite it. And I think your point about embracing nostalgia as something that can connect us to others and make us more compassionate is so good. It is easy to feel that unusual experiences set one apart, but the truth is that EVERYONE experiences loss and yearning, we are ALL travelers far from home.” Thea Wallace

    More about yearning than guilt. That’s a beautiful idea. I’m reading Tim Keller’s Prodigal God, and he redefines sin as wanting things *from* God instead of wanting Him for Himself. I think this is also beautiful and really gets to the core of what God the Father wants from us: relationship.

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  4. Thank you. Reading these things (the original blog and everyone’s comments) has ministered to my soul. It is a comfort to have words put to this deep longing ache that fills me and makes me feel guilty for feeling that way when there is so much that is good in my life. I don’t have to feel guilty any more, because I understand it better now and can embrace this “suffering” as a (good) part of me and know that I am better for it. It is a comfort to know that so many others share this experience/feeling. I don’t feel so alone.

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