When I was a kid, I had a deep love for stories of high adventure. I remember visiting the Woodstock Public Library every two weeks and systematically moving down the shelf until I had read every King Arthur book in the collection, and I am still enamored with stories like this today, the nephew of a farmer uncovering his past and following in his father’s footsteps as a Jedi Knight, a teenager pressured by his father to become a doctor uncovering a passion for acting, or an aimless computer programmer discovering he is destined to save humanity.
We are drawn to stories like these because of something deep inside us. We are captivated by tales of ordinary people discovering they have a great purpose (The Matrix, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings) or stories of characters waking up to deeper and more meaningful lives (Dead Poets Society, Braveheart, The Wizard of Oz, It’s a Wonderful Life). This is because deep down we long for these stories to be our story.
We long to discover that we were made for more than the life we currently experience. Like Dorothy, we a live in black and white while dreaming of a place over the rainbow where the dreams that we dare to dream really do come true. We long to be William Wallace, but if we are honest, we feel more like Robert the Bruce. We lead what Thoreau called “lives of quiet desperation” and ache for something more, something better, something deeper. This ache is a symptom of the deep desires that percolate beneath the surface of our lives.
To what stories or characters do you connect deeply?
To what desire or longing do these stories or characters connect?
It is this ache that I believe is somewhat responsible for the popularity of the Harry Potter. At the start of the story, Harry is an unfortunate boy forced to live with an uncaring aunt and uncle, but as the story unravels, Harry discovers that his parents were members of a hidden society of wizards, and he is introduced to an incredible new world.
However, this doesn’t just set the stage for the beginning of the saga. Each summer Harry returns to his aunt and uncle, and every book begins with a boy living in this dreary place all the while knowing he is a part of a larger, deeper, more adventurous story. I wonder if J.K. Rowling did this to intentionally connect her readers to their own desires for a deeper life.
Most of us grow up expecting that when we are adults we will be satisfied. We think, “When I have a job of my own, move out of my parent’s house, or get married, then I will be happy.” But we meet our soul mate or get a great job and find that it doesn’t satisfy our deepest desires. “When I have kids,” we think, “then I’ll be satisfied.” But we have a couple rugrats and realize we’re still not satisfied. So we wonder if we’ll finally be satisfied when we have grandkids or retire, but we retire and have a gaggle of grandkids yet still feel discontent.
You can plug in any number of expectations, but the problem remains the same. The things we hope for or seek to fulfill our desires rarely do. We respond to this disappointment in a number of ways. Some experience a mid-life or quarter-life crisis. Others become addicted to sex, food, or material things in hopes of satisfying the ache. But more often than not what we seek in hopes of fulfilling our desires is not what satisfies the real desire, the deep longing born from a sense that we were made for more.
If we trace our desires down to their most base level, I believe we find our deepest longings are for love, joy, peace, and purpose. Yet we often wish for things that are poor reflections of the real longings in our lives. We may wish we had a husband or wife, but what we really long for is to love and be loved. We may dream of having a lot of money, but our real desire is peace from worry and/or the joy we expect money to bring. We may want a certain kind of job, but what we really want is purpose and meaning. Our surface dreams are merely reflections of the true deeper desires of our lives. The surface desires may bring some satisfaction for a time, but they will never satisfy the deepest longings of our souls, the desires hardwired into our hearts.
What do you dream about? What do you hope for?
What deep desires might those dreams be reflecting?
Is it possible that our deep, unmet longings tap into the truth that we were actually made for more than what so many of us currently experience? I believe the longing that flows deep within each of us is a desire for the Kingdom of God made real in our lives. In the Kingdom, we are deeply and intimately loved and have the capacity to love others the same. In the Kingdom, there is an enduring joy that soars above circumstances. In the Kingdom, there is peace that transcends understanding. In the Kingdom, we find our purpose. In the Kingdom, we become the people God created us to be. I believe the blueprints for the abundant Kingdom life are written on our hearts in our deep desires, and until we acknowledge this, we sentence ourselves to a life of discontent.