Northernness

18 Aug

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
   so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
   for (D)the living God.   Psalm 42:1-2

Starting in my chest, an undefinable longing slowly rose until it grew so acute I could taste the yearning.

Last night I was editing photos from a trip to my hometown on Lake Superior, and my soul was there – not just imagining, but really standing on the beach.  The crisp lake air pushed ripples toward the the shore, over the smooth pebbles and down into my heart.

C. S. Lewis called it Northernness.

He had several experiences as a child he couldn’t describe his heart was so overwhelmed.  “Later in life he would call this sensation Joy, which he defined as ‘an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.'”

As and adult, waves of Northernness crashed over him as he read ancient Norse legends (hence the directional nature of the term).  “I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale, and remote)…. Pure Northernness engulfed me [with] a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of northern summer.”

David called it thirsting.

He so yearned for more of God that he used a most desperate metaphor from his desert culture – a panting deer.  A deer pants for one of two reasons: either it is overheated (deer hide out in the forests during the day to avoid the heat) or the deer has been running (again, not a common occurrence, because deer are smarter than to unnecessarily run in the heat of the day).  The implication is the deer is stressed and super-desperate for water.  The sun is either blazing down excruciatingly, or the deer was forced to run – most likely from a predator – and must have water now instead of waiting for dusk.  In both life-threateningly grave situations the deer cannot not seek out water.

God uses his creation to speak to me.  Ankle deep in icy water, I hear His voice through the splashing waves, and my heart aches, flying free and twisting into knots at the same time; undefinable, but definitely not elusive.  Thirsty Northernness pushes me into His arms–  the only place my soul is satisfied.

————————-

Ready for Sunday

While I can cultivate a desperateness for God in my relationship with Him that comes close to the overwhelming moments described above, I don’t think I can “make them happen”.  I’m sure these are “deep calling to deep” – His Spirit inside me calling to Him.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t pursue Him!

Nowhere in Psalm 42 does David pine for the royal courts or the accoutrements of being King of Israel.  What he longed for was his God, and specifically, to lead others in worship.

My prayer is that I would be so desperate for Him, the living water, nothing else will satisfy my craving.

Lewis quotes taken from C. S. Lewis, An Examined Life, by Bruce Edwards, pp. 254-55.  Edwards is quoting from Surprised by Joy, The Shape of My Early Life, by C. S. Lewis.

While David is not listed as the author of Psalm 42, the commentaries I read to find the author’s name believe David wrote this psalm while he was hiding from his son Absalom who was trying to usurp the throne.

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