Tolkien and the Desire for Eden

“We all long for (Eden), and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile.’” -J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien is suggesting that our pain wakes us up to a desire within each of us for something more, something deeper and more meaningful, or in his words, “an Eden on this very unhappy earth.”  It’s true, isn’t it?  We all have this longing.  Of course, pain is not the source of the desire.  Pain may illuminate it, but this longing has been present all along.

We could call it the longing for a meaningful life, the longing for love or joy or peace, but in the end what are we really longing for?  I want to live the life I was created to live.  I want to live a life of joy, peace, and most of all love, but is this really what I am missing?  Is it what you are missing?  I say no.  These desires, good as they are, are not the deepest desire.  They are only beacons guiding us toward the real object of our longing, God himself.

If we are honest, I suspect we will all own up to the fact that we began to follow Jesus because we believed he would deliver on one of these desires. We want to be saved.  We want to experience deep love.  We want justice and peace.  But Jesus didn’t come to meet these desires.  If we follow him, we will be saved, we will experience love and joy and peace.   But in following him we discover these are not the missing pieces.  Indeed these things will not – they cannot – fill the longing.  For this longing can only be filled by an intimate relationship with the one who created us.

Pascal said it this way, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?  This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” Or more succinctly said by Augustine, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”

How are you trying to fulfill your longing, and what would it look like for you to lean into the only one who can?

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