Longing as a Spiritual Practice

*The card in this photo was created by Mandy Steward

*The card in this photo was created by Mandy Steward

I only came to understand the season of Advent a few years ago when my friend Mandy created a special program to mark the journey through the days leading up to Christmas. My mystical and hygge-loving self instantly resonated with the soft and intentional practice of expectation. Of looking forward to. Of presence.

On my last birthday I wrote that this upcoming year of life would be my Year of Presence. In ways I could not have known it has become so, and more. It has become a year of gentle longing. Of longing as a spiritual practice.

This morning a dove landed on the railing outside.

I heard her voice first and swept aside the window-covering of crimson.

Windows.* 

Advent.

I saw her there, less than ten feet away. I recall the words, the urgency, the deep and profound love: Winter is past, the holy one said, and I wept in the dark. That spring the doves came and nestled outside my bedroom window with lullabies that went up like prayers—

Winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

The past few months I've been writing about biblical prophecy and the last days. I've shared that I'm awkwardly finding my voice in this, and it's been quite a dramatic shift from what I wrote about before. There is intensity here. Urgency. But above all else is the most tender of longings...


Come, thou long expected.


I haven't known what to do with all of this, really. I am a writer who goes through long and frequent seasons of wordlessness and uncertainty around language.

I appreciate the element of ritual which helps me incarnate what I can't explain. Such as the lighting of a candle before I begin. Morning prayers. Stillness. My husband leaving for work and coming home again. A refill of coffee and fresh splash of almond milk. Being in my beingness. Moments, like rocks along a path to mark a trail: you are here, and this is what is happening, and in an hour you can expect this. Like drawing a line to connect the dots of something bigger. More vast. Something that cannot be seen or felt all at once. They are rhythms and rituals that help me create a space, a container, for what I experience and explore. Even when I don't have perfect words. 

Only presence.

And comfort, if I'm honest. When you know the general shape of things, you can fill in the rest and even make space for a burst of spontaneity—yes, even mystery. Hello, mystery. You go here.

When life doesn't comply to the politeness of ordinary things, it is like being knocked off your feet. The unexpected can do that. You might remember my launch of Rhythms & Rituals earlier this year, something I loved and could not wait to share with you. I created it for those like me—spiritual creatives who are women of the deep rivers, who long to create lives that are meaningful and resonant. And then things changed. I literally could not bring forth. It's like my hands fell to my sides, limp. I am not a “forcer.” And so it sits quietly now with all of the things I cannot hold.

Yet the rhythms remain. They came to me and I remembered them. They came to me, gently re-shaping and restoring the flesh and bones of my life. They came to me with tenderness and fire. I forever love the words of John O'Donohue—“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.”

Yes and yes and yes. Longing.

Come, thou long expected.


...this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!
—Job 19:25-27


It has become a bone-wrenching cry.

Come, thou long expected.

Beloved. Come.

Primordial. Sweat-drenched. Yes. Whole-body-weeping, whole-body-joy—they are my rhythms and rituals of praise. Of hunger and desire and want. Of primal-soul yearnings. Of all-consuming fire. 

Longing.

My spiritual practice, this.

 
 

The fig tree

When speaking to his disciples about his Second Coming, Jesus the Messiah said—

Matt. 24:32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves [budding], you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”

We know that the Second Coming of Christ is at the end of the 7-year tribulation. These seven years are the time of Jacob's Trouble, which is Daniel's 70th week. The fig tree is represented throughout scripture as Israel, which was established as a nation in 1948.

Scripture tells us that a generation is between 70 and 80 years. 

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.—Psalm 90:10

The nation of Israel was declared in 1947 (70 years ago this year) and established in 1948. And Jesus said, “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” This is one of the many reasons why 2017 / 2018 seem pivotal in the timeline of the world and biblical prophecy.

While the earth is going through the time of Jacob's Trouble, these seven years are experienced quite differently in heaven. According to a traditional Jewish wedding, the bridegroom steals his bride away for a week of consummation. The prophetic one-week is seven years. So when Daniel's 70th week of seven years is unfolding on the earth, Jesus will have received his bride and we will be together with him in the heavenly places.

And I think Jesus may have been thinking about King Solomon's words when he told the parable of the fig tree to his disciples. Hundreds of years earlier, in an intimate conversation between bridegroom and bride, we read,

My beloved spoke, and said to me:
“Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away.
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell.

Rise up, my love, my fair one,
And come away!—Song of Solomon 2:10-13

Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Daniel's 70th week is about Israel. The Church is not appointed to wrath. If we know that when the leaves of the fig tree are tender, summer is near, and if we know that when the fig tree puts forth her green figs, the call comes to rise up and come away, then what happens when the figs are fully ripe?

Thus the Lord God showed me: Behold, a basket of summer fruit. And He said, “Amos, what do you see?” So I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me: “The end has come upon My people Israel..”—Amos 8:1-2

There is still time. 

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!”—Matt. 24:32-33

Today, know that it is near—at the doors.


As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.—Ps. 17:15


 
 

To recap this prophecy...

Scripture tells us that the generation that sees the budding of the fig tree will not pass away till all these things take place. 

I am not setting a date. I am looking at biblical prophecy and doing my best to humbly understand through prayer, scripture, Spirit-seeking, wise teachers, and more.

  • Fig tree = Israel
  • Budding = becoming a nation in 1947 / 1948
  • Generation = 70 to 80 years 
  • 1947/8 + 70 years is the year 2017/18
  • 1947/8 + 80 years is the year 2027/28
  • All these things must take place (be complete) by 2027/28 at the latest
  • “All things” include the 7-year tribulation
  • If we push it out the the furthest time frame, 2028, and subtract 7 years, we see the beginning of Jacob's Trouble in 2021. That's IF it goes to the latest possible year given as the average human lifespan (80 years; Psalm 90:10)
  • This year, 2017, has the fulfillment of a celestial prophecy described in Revelation 12 happening on Sept. 23.
  • Many other significant events are happening late summer / early fall 2017
  • 2017 is also the Hebrew year 5777. In Jewish tradition, the number 5 means grace and 777 is perfect and complete.

I'm not saying I have a perfect understanding of this, and I'm still learning... but please hear me when I say with gentle and loving urgency...this is serious. It's worth serious consideration. Many in the last days will dismiss these sorts of things. Too many have “cried wolf” over the years. But throughout scripture we are commanded to watch. 

Jesus tells us—

Rev. 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Rev. 16:15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

And Paul says—

1 Thess. 5:2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 

God speaks to each of us as we are made,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words, the numinous words,
we hear before we begin:
You, called forth by your senses
reach to the edge of your longing.

Become my body
grow like a fire behind things
so their shadows spread
and cover me completely

Let everything into you;
beauty and terror.
Keep going, remember
no feeling lasts forever

Don’t lose touch with me.
Nearby is the land they call life,
you will know it by its intensity.
— Rainer Maria Rilke