This week Ranier Maria Rilke has captured me by the beautiful and mysterious tone of his poem “Go to the Limits of Your Longing” from the Book of Hours:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
Longing is one of those things that is both painful and exhilarating—and therefore difficult to understand. By painful, I mean the tension of living in the already, but not yet; the pain of being able to see how things should be, but not knowing how to get there. Longing is exhilarating when we see those mysteries fulfilled and can begin living in meaningful ways despite the tension.
When I read this poem I feel an invitation and freedom to simply be the fire—a fire where both the pain and joy of longing are fueled by the rich oxygen of God’s spirit. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two at times, but their dancing unison creates a purifying heat.
As God-bearers, we are able to carry ourselves in a way where the flames of our joys and pains create shadows in which God can move.
That is beautiful to me.
Photo credit: Lance Baker [Loc.] Antigua, Guatemala