There is a radical joy in unfulfillment. Because, paradoxically, as the Lord Jesus’ burning touch fills us with greater longing, it leads the heart to expand with an emptiness that brings expectant peace.
By Larisa Tuttle
28 May 2020
“In you, oh Lord, I have found my peace, I have found my peace.”
These sung words reverberated through the church at Holy Cross College in South Bend, Indiana. 180 of us high school freshmen sat in dimly lit pews and listened to the concert prayed at every Confirmation retreat in my parish for the last fifteen years. Same songs, same structure, same church for fifteen years, and yet that moment has become “Ever ancient, ever new” in my story. The reality of “In you, oh Lord, I have found my peace,” echoed into the deepest recesses of my heart and I heard the voice of God in a way I had rarely, if ever, heard before.
About a month ago, I sat on my bed watching the Facebook livestream of the concert that will not be presented this year. My heart broke as I prayed for the sweet students who will not have the life-changing experience of our Confirmation retreat – but whose lives will still be forever changed by the Sacrament. And then I found myself filled with gentle joy as I heard the song again, and was finally able to recall a long-forgotten melody that has never stopped seeking to make itself known. I smiled as I reflected on how far the Lord has taken me since that night at Holy Cross, on the adventure of love that has only increased in beauty and joy and trial over the last several years. And I realized that in the chaos and heartache of 2020, “In you, oh Lord, I have found my peace,” has become more necessary to me than ever before.
Nothing This World Offers Can Satisfy
Since the beginning of this past school year, I’ve realized more and more tangibly that there is nothing this world offers that can satisfy me. It’s not an incredibly deep concept, but one that is so difficult to embrace and allow to penetrate the soul. In his book, …And You Are Christ’s, Catholic priest and author Thomas Dubay writes:
Every single choice you make all day long is proof that you seek, you desire, you want, you lack…You are engaged in an endless whirl…Even after the most thrilling experience (a success, a vacation, a party, a date, a dance), when you are quiet and alone, you perceive deep down a small voice saying, ‘Is that all there is?’…You are a thirst in the flesh, an incarnated thirst.
You cannot help being an incarnated thirst. Nor can I. We may differ in how we seek to slake our thirst. Some go up blind alleys. Others go to the Fountain. But all seek.
Read more about Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. here.
“You cannot help being an incarnated thirst.” There is nothing wrong with the deep desires of our hearts. The Lord gives us those desires because He is a Father who yearns to delight us. But at some point, we all realize that we are never satisfied by the ephemeral, nor even by the metaphysical. Our hearts are made for the Bridegroom, and they are restless until they rest beneath His pierced heart.
This past school year was one of thirsting and running up blind alleys as I wrestled with the messiness of discernment. Not that I was in alleys possessed by evil! I had to make the incredibly difficult decision of pursuing ballet or academics, two things that have each played a tremendous part in my life, have an enormous carving on my heart, and have led me into deeper awe of the Lord.
As I struggled to choose between two goods, it became easy to see those goods as ends in themselves. But even the arts and the universities will pass away. The act of dancing onstage, becoming one with music and my character, co-creating beauty with Beauty Himself, is an experience of unspeakable joy. But that experience cannot last forever. Similarly, those moments of serving on a retreat or working with middle schoolers may fill me with purpose. But my purpose as a human being is not to exist as a youth minister, nor is it to exist as a dancer. My purpose is to exist as the Beloved.
Finally, I got it. Finally, I realized that ballet would never fully satisfy me. Neither would a theology degree and a dream catechetical position. And that made my decision so much easier. Next year, I plan to dance as a trainee with a dream company. Not because ballet will satisfy the deepest, most intimate hunger in my soul. But because I love it, and the Lord has given me that love. Beauty will save the world – has already saved it in fact, in 33 A.D., and I want to be a part of the exhilarating role that the arts have in the epic of world history. I believe that the ultimate Writer and Creator has not yet completed the ballet chapter in my story, and I am excited to see the joy that He will spread before me in my coming years as an artist.
But although beauty will save the world, the world is not restored yet. I will go through life unsatisfied. Constantly thirsting and yearning for more of the infinite presence of the Trinity who longs to consume my soul with the fire of His divine love. Rather than discourage me, that revelation has filled me with peace and excitement because I can stop looking to the things I do as the ultimate source of fulfillment, and choose instead to run alongside Jesus as I drink in the wonder He presents to me every day.
The Radical Joy of Unfulfillment
There is a radical joy in unfulfillment. Because paradoxically, as His burning touch fills us with greater longing, it leads the heart to expand with an emptiness that brings expectant peace. “Come and see,” Christ says, as He comes into our lives that scream to be satisfied and filled, not with musty hay, but with a banquet that only the Wedding Feast of the Lamb provides. “Come, and rest in me.”
As we cry for things to go back to normal, as we begin our entrance back into a world whose sickness is now external, may we remember that this thirst for community, activity, physical touch, and normalcy is a good thing. We thirst because we are humans made for one another and made for contentment. But may we remember that these things we have been longing for will not satisfy us like we maybe think they will. May we rejoice in the emptiness. Because there are empty holes in Christ’s hands and feet, and in those wounds alone do we find our peace.
Larisa Tuttle is a ballet dancer from Indianapolis who will be joining Cincinnati Ballet’s Professional Training Division in the fall. She is passionate about ministry, particularly for middle school students, and loves writing and speaking about Christ’s relentless love, the inherent beauty of the human person, her love for literature, and the necessity of the Oxford comma. Her writing can be found on her shared blog, notlikethemagazines.wordpress.com.