At breakfast one morning, a wife looks at her husband as he reads the financial page of the newspaper, just as he has done every morning for the past twenty years. She longs to yank away the paper and tell him she is just as in love with him today as she was the day they were married. But she isn’t sure it’s true. She isn’t sure he loves her. She isn’t even sure who he is anymore. She stares at the back of the paper that covers his face and under her breath asks, “Where are you?”
A young executive drives home after a long day’s work. Once again he’s running late. He picks up the car phone to tell his wife that he’ll be a bit late for dinner but will get there as soon as he can. His little girl answers the phone and asks plaintively, “Where are you, Daddy?” Immediately he realizes that he’d forgotten all about her first piano recital that afternoon. After he hangs up, he looks into the rearview mirror, disgusted with himself. He can’t get the question out of his mind. Where are you? He remembers how much it hurt when his own father missed his first Little League game. This isn’t who he wants to be. It isn’t who he used to be. “What happened?” he wonders. “Where am I?”
A recently widowed woman goes to bed alone. It is the worst part of the day. She has drunk a bit too much wine, in the hope that it will help her pass out quickly. But the grief is stronger than the alcohol, and the tears start to flow as soon as she lies down. Her hand slides over to her husband’s pillow as she asks, “Where are you?”
Some of us are lost in lonely marriages, others in the blind pursuit of success and still others in their grief. We struggle to find a way out, but the harder we try the more lost we become. Sometimes we get so lost, we don’t even know where or who we are. It would be good to have someone find us, to tell us it’s going to be okay. It would be good to have hope.
Barnes, Yearning pg. 111-112
In the book, Yearning, Barnes is “making a motion that we face reality.” He argues that we aren’t meant to be satisfied or whole. As exemplified in the passage above, he writes about life with a refreshing honesty often missing in Christian authors. He offers no platitudes and no easy spiritual solutions to our broken lives. He even discourages us from focusing on becoming arguing instead for just being. And yet he believes there is profound hope for us Christians.
The Bible provides one vignette after another of the grief-stricken God in search of the creatures he loves. This great story of God’s search for humanity culminates in the arrival of Jesus as God in the flesh. Jesus walks through ordinary streets and villages, looking for those who have lost their way. It is the end of a journey that began with God’s first walk through the garden. Jesus’ birth, teachings, miracles and death are all paraphrases of the Creator’s great question, “Where are you?” pg. 112
If God continues his search for us that he began in Eden, then salvation is being found by him. But when we are found we shouldn’t expect to be rescued. God’s salvation isn’t a rescue from this world or our problems but a promise of his presence with us.
We don’t usually think of salvation as having God with us We would rather think of it as our being with God, and as being saved from how it is. We would rather think of ‘the victorious Christian life.’ But in Jesus Christ God is revealed as the Savior-Immanuel, which means that salvation is not our ascent out of the hard, pain-filled, compromised conditions of this world. Salvation is God’s descent down to the lost world that he loves. pg. 116
Salvation doesn’t mean we will no longer struggle with our broken self in a fallen world. Therefore, he argues let’s be honest about it. As a pastor he’s walked with people through some hard life circumstances. He’s seen people battle illness, lose children to rebellion, and spouses abandon one another. The church is supposed to be the place where people can go to be honest about their pain and then be received with grace, but too often it’s the last place people want to go when they have a problem.
Too often the church just promulgates a spiritualize version of the world’s favorite lie that if you just buy this product all your problems with go away. The church begins to peddle the promises that if you’ll only come to our church, join a small group, go on this mission trip, pray this prayer, read your Bible, or pray so often, then you will experience healing and be on your way to becoming whole. For those of us who try these things and still feel deep dissatisfaction with life, we fear we’ve done something wrong. We fear we are missing out on what everyone else has. We worry, maybe I didn’t pray quite right or I didn’t ask for forgiveness for all my sins, or I didn’t… This is a lie. It’s a lie that prevents people from being honest with one another and experiencing grace.
I love this book. In it I find the freedom to be honest about life. Barnes beautifully articulates the tension between “being saved” and feeling forsaken. I found myself wanting to read half the paragraphs to my wife. You know a book is good when your wife starts to role her eyes when you tell her you want to read yet another passage to her! I highly recommend this book. It’s very easy to read, theologically accessible, and I imagine it will be encouraging to anyone who’s ever felt like they’ve failed at life.