Our fundamental dis-ease, then, is at once a precise neurological phenomenon and a most precious gift from God. It is not a sign of something wrong, but of something more profoundly right than we could ever dream of. It is no problem to be solved, no pathology to be treated, no disease to be cured. It is our true treasure, the most precious thing we have. It is God's song of love in our soul.
In this passage from the last pages of Addiction and Grace, Dr. May, a psychiatrist/spiritual
director, insists that we must learn to love our longing. Our "true treasure,"he says, is our longing, not our satisfactions. C.S. Lewis agrees when he
defines joy itself as a longing for something eternal that is better than any temporal satisfaction.
The God-given ache for union, justice, and beauty leaves us feeling hungry and even angry. It's hard to tolerate desires that must be felt, but rarely find fulfillment. The fact that we experience this dis-ease as a physical, neurological phenomenon and that it is often labeled a treatable pathology makes it even harder to embrace. What is physical/emotional pathology and what is spiritual necessity? As far as I can tell, only God knows. And it may not be a distinction in which God is very interested.
To grow in Christlikeness is to increase our affect tolerance. Affect tolerance, a term from psychology referring to an ability to bear difficult emotions with equanimity, is necessary for ordinary growth and maturity. But it also applies to our deepest God-given desires. To grow in the ability to endure
unsatisfied desire, it is helpful to realize that there is great energy and courage to be found in and only in the experience of longing.
As we can all attest, a full belly and a warm bed do not inspire great deeds of compassion. But life, that is Grace, will provide opportunities to hunger and thirst for righteousness.