At age nineteen, I resigned myself to the fatalistic conclusion that, ultimately, everyone leaves. As a college first-year, I was adopted into a friend group of all seniors whom I grew to deeply admire and love, only to watch them graduate months later. These were the most meaningful friendships I had ever had at that point in my life, and their sudden absence offered me my first taste of heartbreak.
Sophomore year, I found myself sitting up late on a friend’s sofa, confessing my fear that he too would eventually leave, just like everyone else. When he finally spoke, he simply quoted today’s reading from Isaiah: “People are like the grass. Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.” Though this wasn’t the response I wanted, in retrospect, it was the one I needed. I told him about my chronic longing for a best friend, someone who would never leave, though time, distance and death rendered that ideal impossible. His answer was one I’ll never forget: “That person you’re looking for is Jesus.”
It’s taken years for me to wrap my mind around the revelation first sparked by this statement, but it was then, hearing this teenage boy’s “Sermon on the Couch” that I realized: it will never be enough. That desire for constant companionship and love that lasts a lifetime has manifested itself in a variety of interpersonal relationships, but the longing for something more never really goes away. People change, and friends come and go. The man who loved me most no longer loves me at all. My grandparents tell me they might not be around soon. The grass withers and the flower wilts.
Contemplating the image of the ephemeral life that Isaiah offers us, we cannot help but reflect with bittersweetness on Christ’s declaration “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Though we can and should seek God in the goodness of our everyday lives and the people in them, we must not lose sight of what waits for us at the end of this life: an eternity spent with Love Himself. If we frame it this way, we give ourselves the freedom to let go of those expectations the world whispers in our ears, telling us that if we only possessed whatever it is we want most—wealth, affirmation, romance, success—then we would feel complete contentment. In Christ alone lies our true fulfillment. It is the unending love of someone who knows our hearts, all our hopes and fears; someone who believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves; and someone who will never leave our side, no matter how far we stray.
Our yearning for something more is not so much an emptiness of something lacking in this life as much as a reminder of what lies ahead. It is a promise of the total joy experienced when our souls finally come home to the Love we have been looking for all our lives.