Have you ever woken up in the morning (or maybe in the middle of the night) and had a strong sense that you are missing something in your life? Yeah, you attend an exceptional school. Yeah, you’ve got a handful of close friends, but you still feel empty.
So you go through life consciously trying to fill that void. You say to yourself, “Maybe I’m lacking direction.” Convinced, you resolve to be more goal-oriented. You go to the gym. You watch what you eat. You set aside time each day to study. But still you harbor a distinct feeling that there is something more to life that you are missing.
Having tried and failed at being more disciplined, you decide that this feeling of unmet desire is somehow normal and that you need to learn to live with it. So you do your best to quiet those restless thoughts and practice a subtle form of denial.
But that only lasts so long. A few weeks go by, maybe more, maybe less, and you begin to toy with giving in to that deeply buried desire. You think about living differently and about opening up again to your dreams. You remember what it was like to be a kid, carefree and happy. But your wounded conscience quickly sobers you back to reality. “Life couldn’t possibly be like that,” you say to yourself.
To remedy your hidden depression you decide to drown those dangerous thoughts with seasons of alcohol, loud music and short-lived relationships. You secretly long to escape this cycle, but you think you’re in too deep. You’ve passed the point where turning back is possible.
Years have gone by and you no longer know yourself. You feel so numb inside that you go to extremes just to make sure you’re still alive. Not only that, but those pillars on which you have always relied, your parents, are showing signs of weakness. Your dad is about to lose his job. Your parents are going through a rough patch in their marriage. Or better yet, maybe they’ve just recently divorced because there is no reason to stay together after “the kids are all grown up.”
All the while you’ve been working hard in your classes to show them that you appreciate how much they’ve invested in you. But no matter how much you try they still seem either unimpressed or preoccupied. They have good reason to be preoccupied. Even though they wouldn’t admit it, they are just as lost as you are. Theirs, though, is a struggle different from what they experienced in their younger years. It’s a struggle against their mortality. Their faces are beginning to droop. Their backs are beginning to hurt. Arthritis. Memory loss. Cancer.
Go to school. Get good grades. Get a good job. Begin a family. Save up for retirement. Retire. Then…
This is the looming question. What is all of this for? Eighty years of life, if that, then what? We all come into this world ignorant of the story, trying to make sense out of that which becomes increasingly confusing.
My life at Colgate has been dedicated to helping people consider these questions. Why? Because I believe these questions are central to life.
God, are you real? Do you love me? Am I important to you? Do you know me? God if you’re real, I’d like to know you.
This life is a journey-it’s your journey. You are the protagonist. You are central to the story. And God’s been there since the beginning, speaking softly in love and longing.