PARADOXICAL

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Thursday, April 03, 2014

 

Sehnsucht


(This will be my Reflection #29.)

Today, I’d like to discuss my own experience of sehnsucht. These thoughts are triggered by Stef’s question about the concept of “spiritual suffering.” I said, in my opinion, spiritual suffering is suffering is not caused by our own sin. Also, it may include sehnsucht.

It’s wonderful how the Germans have a term for it – it’s an indication that the early Germans have an experience of it. I was privileged (?) to experience this in an ironic way: right in the middle of euphoria in the days immediately following graduation from the Christian Life Program. I just surrendered myself to the Lord and I felt so joyful, so high, that I didn’t mind dying any minute during those days. I even felt like I could face a thousand demons without my heart throbbing. My fellow graduates felt the same way, to be sure, but I never discuss that other accompanying feeling with anyone lest I be misunderstood.

The feeling is a paradox: a feeling of inexplicable low right in the middle of high – inexplicable because I didn’t understand it at the time. After the adequate passage of time, I understood why I was profoundly lonely. I was profoundly lonely because I no longer wanted to go back to the world and its worldly ways. I desired to be purely with God the rest of my life, but the call of the world was pulling me back to the ground. It made me anguish over the fact that after wonderful worship and a life of intimate prayer, I still needed to attend to my biological needs, my work, my career path, taking care of my parents and siblings, and such concerns. I still had to wash my clothes, struggle with complex human interactions and politics in the workplace, take part in the issues that concern the larger society, and so on.

Why is that so sad, you might ask? Those are not exactly the things that made me sad, but the accompanying thought that going back to the world would surely expose me again to the strong possibility of sin and offending my God again and again. It’s not a pretty picture to be in.

The feeling, or spiritual dilemma, must be akin to what the apostles felt at Mt. Tabor. “It’s great to be here. Can we stay here permanently?” Their euphoria, as we all know, was doused with cold water when Jesus told them after the transfiguration that they have to descend from the mountain and go back to the ‘real world,’ the fallen world of day-to-day temptation and sin.

I think I have gotten over that feeling, but I hope it has remained here in my heart because it’s good to have sehnsucht. It increases my awareness that, no matter the highs and lows of his life, this is not yet the life. Everything is temporary, bound to pass away, to give way, to make a way for what’s permanent: the permanent joy of eternity, the predestined (?) fate of heaven as our home. Until then, this little nagging sadness will be a constant companion. It is meant to be that way anyway, that is why the angels in heaven are said to pity us. They know the highly imperfect state we're in, no matter the heights of earthly perfection we achieve, whether material or spiritual.



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