Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Beautiful Ache, Explained

What do you long for? Pray for? Save all your hopes for? Does it have a name? A title? A feeling?

Gosh, I wish you could come over. I wish we could sit down in the library and talk about this together. I really do. But since we can't - not today, anyway - let's do this: let's have a book talk. Not a book review. (There are plenty of those out there already.) Oh no, I want to introduce you to a book that has quietly changed my life... has subtly changed the way I look at myself and my oldest wishes and rawest hurts. The book is called The Beautiful Ache: Finding the God Who Satisfies When Life Does Not, and it, my friends, speaks to the most deeply-buried longings in your heart.

I've never met Leigh McLeroy, the author of this book. We've never met but we do have a mutual friend. When I begged our friend for Leigh's information, she did me one better: she put me in direct contact with Leigh. I was ecstatic. Direct communication with one of my favorite authors? Wow!

This is what came of it. This is what came of my chance to ask a favorite writer about a formidable subject: how do I deal with the aches in my life? How do I invite an almighty and all-knowing God into my hurt? This is our conversation, unedited:


Brin: This book is emotive. Personal. What, exactly, drove you to write it?

Leigh: This book has been slow-brewing. I wrote parts of it more than five years ago, unsure of what (if anything) they might become. The thread that ties them together was revealed to me gradually – but I’m so gratified that it has finally become something whole and true. As to what drove me – maybe it was simply the realization that no one that I know is completely and utterly satisfied with their life. No matter their state or status, they have longings – desires – that seem out of reach. C.S. Lewis said that If we experience desires that no earthly thing can satisfy, the most logical explanation is that we were made for another world. We are! But we live in this one…and this world has aches that can’t be avoided, and shouldn’t be. I’ve come to believe that it is important to embrace these longings and let them teach us…not push them away or try to stuff or stifle them. That’s the message I wanted to share.

Brin: Tell me about having a "beautiful ache". What is it? What's yours?

Leigh: The “beautiful ache” is that nagging “heart hurt” that leaves you wanting more, hoping for more, than what you have felt or known. When I explained it to someone recently, she said “Oh that! I call that my ‘homesick feeling’”. Something inside every one of us just knows there’s more. And we ache for it.

I have many “beautiful aches.” In fact, I describe 17 of them in the book, from the ache to belong, to the ache for beauty, to the ache to celebrate. One ache of mine centers on hope – in particular the hope or ache for a family, for a husband and children. Up to now, that is not the way God has led me. I’m not sure if this ache will ever be satisfied in the way I desire…and it certainly has not been in the timing I desire. But I invite God into that ache by refusing to deny it, or to stop asking him to satisfy it. (Which, by the way, is a lot different than frantically trying to figure out how I can do so myself!) I pray a very specific prayer in this regard, and I believe I will know with certainty if, and when, God chooses to answer affirmatively. But even now, the ache compels me to cultivate other relationships that call out my loving and nurturing side, and that keep me emotionally engaged and honest. And I remind myself in the midst of the ache that there is not a single day of my life I would have traded for marriage and motherhood before now, because God has blessed me with some wonderful relationships and experiences I might not have enjoyed had my life taken a different turn.

Brin: Do our aches have a purpose?

Leigh: My belief is that their purpose is to turn our hearts God-ward, so that we can come to know the one who truly satisfies, even when (or maybe especially when) life does not.

Brin: In the book, you address how to "embrace the gap between the life you know...and the life you can't help longing for". Do you believe this is truly possible?

Leigh: I do. It’s not our natural response to embrace an ache…but experience has taught me that it’s a possible response – and even a desirable one. Because I believe in a God whose kingdom has come, is coming, and will come – I am more able to live in the tension of a world where all is not as it should be, or will be. I am less prone to try to “resolve” everything here, trusting instead that one day, my King will return, will right all wrongs, defeat all foes, judge in righteousness, and rule a new heaven and a new earth forever. When I see my aches in light of eternity, they take on a whole new meaning. They no longer taunt me, they teach me. Mother Theresa once said that, from the perspective of eternity, the very worst experiences of this world will seem like one night in a bad hotel. I like that.

Brin: Wow. Can - or how do we go about - letting God into the midst of our aches?

Leigh: That’s a great question – and a fair one. I try to live “wide awake” – with my heart and spirit and senses engaged. And from reading your blog, I suspect that you do, too. Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God – but only he who sees takes off his shoes… It hurts sometimes to get glimpses of that beautiful “other” and not have more of it – but the glimpses are worth lingering over, and even the emptiness they leave in their wake is a good, true thing. I try not to rush by those things that elicit the ache, or to medicate the longing they evoke with business or activity or food or drink or any lesser pleasure. I try to let the longing teach me, and take me where it wants to go.

Seriously. I can't tell you all how deeply this book has impacted me. And I can't encourage you enough to find a quiet corner and a soft hankie and read this book. Ask for it at church or order Leigh's book by clicking here.

And Leigh, thanks. Thank you for sharing your ache with us and, as a result, helping me identify and take hold of mine. You're such a blessing. I can't wait for the next book! -Brin


Anonymous said...

Wow..I want to read this book! And what a beautiful time to meet and talk about the book with the author herself.
Thank you for sharing, Brin!

Anonymous said...

I am reading this book!! I am new to the blogging world, but have been admiring it for a long time. I could spend hours on yours...thank you for time well spent!!
Karen Eileen

Unknown said...

WOW, is right!! I'm gonna see if my library has it, thanks Brin for the insight and sharing!

Anonymous said...

i'm totally curious about this book now and just ordered it off amazon. thanks for introducing us to it and to Leigh, i'm excited to read this and share with my sunday school class and friends. connie

Anonymous said...

I am going to buy this book right now! Thank you for telling us about it. That "beautiful ache" is something that's always there, but I couldn't put a name on it. Thank you Brin.

Anonymous said...

Leigh, Thanks for sharing this with us. I'm going to buy a copy during my lunch break and start reading it tonight. Brin, Thanks for opening my eyes to this relevant author and her book. Hollie

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brin, for your enthusiasm for The Beautiful Ache! Your questions were great - I enjoyed thinking about, and answering them. Next time I'm in D., could I have a tour of Freeman House???

Brambleberry said...

I just love a book that helps me formulate my thoughts, change my perspective--or at least refocus my perspective...this one sounds positively life changing.

Thanks for the introduction!

Anonymous said...

Adding this one to my list. Can't even tell you how the Lord is dropping people into my life who have just the right morsels for my soul at this juncture in my life. Looks like you're another one. I just can't get over how masterfully He orchestrates our lives.

Came across your blog via my new friend at Sea Cottage.

Bless you as continue to pursue Him and encourage us to do so as well.

BellaColle said...

So that's what it's called! I guess I need to be reading this book! To put my mind Godward is where alot of that ache goes away, you realize it just doesn't matter as much.
Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

This is a great book find and I am grateful for the intro to this author. I just placed an order for the Beautiful Ache and hope it gets here quickly so I can start reading and catch up. Thanks, I wish you both pleasant summers. Lynn E.

Anonymous said...

Can I put in a word for another recent book by Leigh McLeroy, "Moments for Singles"?
The back jacket says it all..."the happiest, most satisfied men and women are not defined by the presence or absence of a mate. They are defined by their relationship with God."

Thanks, Leigh, for this and more.

Brigitta said...

thanks for sharing this with us Brin, I'll try to get the book over here (it'll be sooo much cheaper than ordering it from the US) I know about beautiful aches (like I guess we all do)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review...I bought it and am enjoying it thoroughly. I've had so many "aha" moments. Heather