Thirsty for Meaning

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By: Scott Reall

One day, as Jesus was walking through Samaria on a hot day, he came upon a well in the middle of the desert. Nobody was there except this Samaritan woman. Jesus and the woman got into a discussion about her life—as Christ often does; pulling us out of deep isolation and exposing our true human condition. What we learn about this woman is that she was struggling. We know that she struggled with shame as she came to the well at a time that no one else would be there. Jesus exposed her human condition. We see a pattern of her search for love and purpose as she had been married five times. She was seeking the answer for her human condition: the longing to be loved and the find the meaning and purpose of life with love. [1]

In this encounter, Jesus is speaking to the whole human race about our struggles with our human condition. Outside of a relationship with Him, anywhere we turn to find the answer of our longing hearts or to feel the meaning and purpose of love has the potential to often leave us empty and void of that love and meaning. Theologian Richard Rohr speaks of this longing for love. Rohr teaches:

“What we lack in an addictive society or a family is a sense of being alive, really interiorly alive. And so we look for pseudo-ways to feel alive. They never work, but for some reason they’re better than doing nothing. Nicotine, caffeine, eating food to give us some kind of sensation, pouring liquor our our throats. Or we overstimulate ourselves by gambling or by sexual activity – something to make a non-alive person feel alive. It’s a testimony to an utter lack of spirituality.” [2]

The world is filled with broken people like the woman at the well, desperate for love and significance. Within the human condition is an innate desire to love and be loved, so why are there so many broken hearts? Is there anything in this world that gives us as much meaning as love? Many of us try to deny our need for love by distracting our consciousness with life-controlling issues, but our hearts will never be truly satisfied.

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At the end of the day, we all have one core need—to be loved. When this is absent from our lives, we experience lack of purpose and deep feelings of isolation, because a life without love feels meaningless.

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I often experience the feeling of meaninglessness when I am in downtime. Sometimes weekends, holidays, or being alone at night. In those moments of feeling disconnected to the purpose of my life, I notice a slight depression ormelancholy, then comes this instinctive awareness of longing for intimate connection. If I stay disconnected, the depression and melancholy gets more intense, and so does my need to escape. However I chose to numb, it disconnects me from the true meaning of my life.

Meaninglessness is the plague of modern man. We all have been the woman at the well. We all are searching and longing for an answer. Christ, as he presents Himself, acknowledges that we can drink all day long, insatiably unsatisfied, and the world will offer us no better option that to keep coming back to the same old well.


[1]Bible, John, 4:1-26

[2]Rohr, Richard. “Feeling Alive.”

Why I run from what I long for…

 

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Recently, I have been stuck in a pattern that I dislike: longing for intimacy, but being terrified of vulnerability. For me, there are two types of vulnerability: one type I bring into a small group; the second I bring to one-on-one relationship. In close personal relationship I am far more guarded. I am comfortable in group, but in one on one relationships, I retreat because the risk is so much greater. Vulnerability with those I’m closest with requires honesty and truth about what I am longing for and what my weaknesses are; it is here that I am most afraid. In truth, I am fully aware that you can use my vulnerability against me and choose to reject me.

Rejection would really hurt so I remain guarded, distant, disconnected, no intimacy in close relationships, and I remain lonely.

What I have come to realize is that I fiercely cling to what I know. Even though I may be suffering by clinging to dysfunction, I don’t do anything to change it. Instead, I continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I fear confronting a reality that I find unacceptable. But I accept it fearing that I will just make it worse if I try to change it.

This pattern becomes dangerous because I isolate and withdraw, then use some type of escape to fill the void, perpetuating resentment and self-pity. This pattern continues repeating with some small periods of relief like vacations or trips–but at the heart of it is loneliness. I stop trying to connect.

Brené Brown says, “Those who are vulnerable and risk pain and suffering from vulnerability live whole-heartedly; imperfect and wired for struggle, but worthy of love and belonging.”[1]

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What I am learning in this struggle is people deserve to know the truth. Yes, there is risk and potential suffering from sharing the truth, but it is the only path to being truly known. Isolation is the fertile soil of making bad choices to alleviate the pain. I can choose to suffer in isolation and silence withholding my truth from people, knowing that it will never bear fruit other than loneliness, or I can choose to suffer in the power of being known.

The very thing I run from is the very thing I long for.

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The only way I am going to grow and enter into the sacred place of intimacy is to risk truth in vulnerability. So I have decided that I am not going to suffer in isolation anymore, because vulnerability is the only path that leads to connection with others and ultimately myself.

 

[1] Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead