Recently I’ve been reminded of events that cause me to reflect on the past five years of our lives. It’s easy to look back and ask, What have we really accomplished?
In the emotions of this question I gain the tiniest glimpse of what it must be like to look back on seventy or eighty years of your life and say, I still have so much more left I would like to do. These infinite desires are not something to be squelched: they are the echoes of eternity within us. They tell us something about what it means to be human.
I think all of us in this season have had to reckon with, and rein in, our natural desires. Our desire to see or hold family members anytime; our desire for a casual trip to the market without planning and precautions; our desire to travel or work anywhere we want. Part of living a life well does mean learning to have mastery over our desires and finding contentment even in imperfect circumstances. Certainly this season has given us ample opportunities to practice this.
But I also think there is an essential piece of truth in the fact that God created man and woman as hungry beings. This cycle of hunger and fulfillment was not merely meant to be an inconvenience, a way of reminding us of our weakness and dependence upon the earth. It was not something that came after the fall, something we will “grow out of” in the new earth. In fact, eternity is often compared to a great feast.
Catherine of Siena writes about eternity: “But, in this way, hunger continues: Those who are hungry are satisfied, and as soon as they are satisfied, they hunger again. In this way their satisfaction is without disgust, and their hunger without suffering.
“Thus your desire is infinite, or otherwise it would be worth nothing.
…The only infinite thing you possess is the affection and desire of your souls.”
I’ve grappled with this idea in many of my poems this year because I want to learn to cultivate the right kind of hungers: the hunger for justice over serenity, the hunger for growth over predictability, the hunger for connection over insecurity. But most of all, I want to cultivate the kind of hunger that can only be satisfied by the Infinite.
Someday, if I get the chance to look back on my life fifty years from now, I want to be the one who says, What an incredible gift. But I also want to be the one to say, What’s next?
All your life stretches out before you
And you will never reach the end
Of the banquet table.
Welcome to the feast!