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Holy Restlessness

Written by Rev. Rebecca D. Reeder, Associate Pastor, Sewickley Presbyterian Church

Daily 414, Friday, May 8, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing from friends and feel it myself – the absence of community and regular human contact is really having an impact now. I’m tired of being unable to gather with friends and family and you all. There is a restlessness in my soul for human connection beyond the computer screen.

This week in our “Zombie Gospel Zoom Group” we read a chapter on longing and desire. In the television series, “The Walking Dead,” the characters always seem to be searching for something, though it’s not always clear what it is they are longing for. Safety? A new world? A better humanity? A cure? The author of The Zombie Gospel, Danielle Strickland, uses this theme to discuss how we’re all searching. We sometimes think that our longing and desire itself is the problem, but really the issue is misplaced desire.

Saint Augustine is often quoted for his words to God: “Our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in you.” It is this restlessness that Strickland says “is holy. It’s the source of our desire.” Holy restlessness. Suddenly the restlessness I feel for community becomes a holy thing, a thing that reflects the fact that I am made – all of us are made – in the image a triune God who is community in very essence. Whenever I long for the company of others, at its root I am longing for God because God is present in all of humanity created in God’s image. We cannot reflect the image of God – we cannot be the Body of Christ in its fullest expression – by ourselves, alone.

In the chapter on longing, Strickland talks about an experiment with rats around addiction. When the rats were isolated, they always went for the drug provided. But when they were placed in a community of other rats, given “colored balls to play with, the best rat food, tunnels to explore, and plenty of friends…the rats tried the drug water a few times but never became addicted.” It’s not a perfect analogy to humans because humans are far more complex, but it speaks to a possibly surprising truth – the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is human connection.

The takeaway for me is that my longing for human connection is a holy longing for God in and among us all. As the psalmist proclaims,

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?

(Psalm 42:1-2)

So, what are you restless for right now? Can you trace it back to a holy restlessness for God?

“If we can trace the desire to its origin, it would no doubt reveal the most important thing about us. The desire to be known, to be loved, to feel connected, to matter, to belong – those are all right desires, and they are all found in one place: God.”

Are you missing particular people right now? Are you longing for community and human connection? If so, I offer the following liturgy to use when missing someone. Use it with whomever you live with, or by yourself, or over the phone or computer with a loved one. Let it remind you that every absence is but temporary, and in Christ we are and will be united – now, when we can gather together again, and for all eternity.

*All quotations taken from Strickland, Danielle. The Zombie Gospel: the Walking Dead and What It Means to Be Human. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2017. See esp. chap. 6, “The Longing.”

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