The urgent call of the salt air surprised me this year. It calls me back to the place I spent a good portion of every summer on the Pacific Coast. Mom would take us to our property on the coast when the temperatures inland climbed high. We would weather the heat in the cool coastal air. Foggy mornings would burn off into clear blue skies and we’d spend hours walking the shoreline. I can imagine the smell of the salt air filling my lungs as my toes sink into the sand and are washed by the waves. My little piece of heaven.
The salt air would call me while I went to college in Oregon. My grades dropped the term I got my car and realized I could drive to the salt air in just over an hour. It’s call was always greater than more time spent in the library or on my computer. I just had to find a friend and fill my gas tank, soon the wind was in my hair and my toes were in the sand.
It’s not unusual for me to long for that special place. My mom still lives on the property where we spent so many summers. It’s been two years since I’ve made the trip so I guess my longing should be expected. But this year it feels more urgent. It’s an ache that brings tears to my eyes. I wasn’t ready for the intensity since I’ve been away for so long.
It’s not that I’m miserable where I live. I have always lived close to water: the Puget Sound, the Pacific Coast, the Willamette River, the Cumberland River and now the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. There is plenty that ties me to these Three Rivers and this beautiful place. Plane tickets are expensive. I’m transitioning between jobs and money is tight. I’ll plan a trip for next year, for now, I live in this place of longing. These places of mourning or waiting or longing aren’t all that comfortable.
Paul struggled in a similar uncomfortable place,
“I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.” Philippians 1:23, 24 ESV
He was suffering in jail when these words were written. His freedom had been taken away, it is no wonder that he wanted to depart and be with Christ. Being in the presence of Christ in heaven would have ended his sufferings on earth. Yet, he was torn between the two because he didn’t want to leave those he loved. He knew he had more to do on earth. Paul understood that uncomfortable place between the longing of his heart and the reality of his life.
Don’t we all feel that longing for heaven? Life can be tough. We get tired of “adulting” We want the “Easy” button. But the truth is, even though we long for heaven, there is always work to be done here. Paul’s longing for heaven didn’t cause him to give up and wait for death, rather, it spurred him on to do more. He knew that he must continue to proclaim Christ to those around him.
As I sit in this place of longing, whether it’s for salt air or heaven, may I also be spurred on to the work that God has prepared for me. May this place of longing be a starting point and not an ending, a place to love others and proclaim Christ’s love. And may my toes be covered in sand soon!
What are you longing for? How do you survive the moments of longing in your life? How are you loving those around you?