An Unquenchable Thirst for God
Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
The serious Christian in today’s world encounters many difficulties: How do we keep ourselves unsoiled in the modern climate? How do we raise our children in an unsupportive culture? How do we deal with churches and clergy who do not uphold or encourage traditional Christianity? These are difficult issues and at times it is easy to feel that because of our faith we live an ascetical life of constant struggle—one that requires that we always pray, often fast, and rarely relax.
To be serious about one’s faith in a traditional sense is to recognize the need to engage in asceticism (which might be defined as following Christ’s commandment to deny ourselves and follow him). But if we are truly interested in asceticism, we would do well to bear in mind the purpose of such an adventure. But before elaborating on that, let me state something with which some might take issue: I submit that the ascetic life is not putting to death our passions. It is not eliminating all desires, all longings, all cares, all joys. It is rather redirecting them towards God.
Given that presupposition, this is the purpose of asceticism, the goal of the serious Christian life: to develop an unquenchable thirst for God. To be so ablaze with love for him that our cares for everything else pale in comparison. To long to be with him every minute of every day. To feel an emptiness when we are distracted from praying throughout the day. To see his hand in everything we touch, and see his face in everyone we meet. To yearn to be with the angels singing his praises. To be moved to tears when we reflect on the passion of our Lord. To develop such a desire for God that it cannot be completely satisfied in this life.
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Thomas S. Buchanan is the George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has studied at UCSD, Northwestern University, and MIT, and has held visiting professorships at the University of Western Australia and the University of Aix-Marseille. He has served as department chairman, deputy dean, and institute director, president of the American Society of Biomechanics, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Biomechanics. He is on the Board of Trustees of Saint Katherine College, the editorial board of Touchstone, and the board of The Fellowship of St. James.
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