A few months ago I was in California visiting some friends. On my way back to Chicago I had one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. (As I typed that, I double-checked my memory to make sure it was an accurate statement and as far as I can think back, it is.) Anyways, I was sitting in the aisle seat of the plane and had just finished reading a book when I noticed the guy across the aisle, one row ahead of me. He initially caught my eye when he whipped out a brand new Macbook Pro (I LOVE those computers!). He was wearing a polo jersey, browsing horse pictures in his iPhoto library. I sat there, happily watching and lusting after his computer when he opened iTunes and began watching video after video of snowboarding.
I’ve never snowboarded and I’ve only skied twice in my life, but the videos this guy was watching had me absolutely captivated. Probably 15 minutes into watching them from across the aisle (perhaps a little voyeuristic of me), I realized that I was crying. Not the sobbing, sniffly-nose, can’t-catch-my-breath-because-I’m-wheezing kind of crying. But the quiet, steady stream of tears down my cheeks and onto the seat-back tray in front of me.
I don’t know how long I had been crying before I realized it. And I had no idea where the tears had come from. But I continued to sit there, watching snowboarding videos, silently crying. It was as strange as it sounds.
As best as I could have described it, those snowboarding videos captured a desperate and intense (and apparently suppressed) longing I had for life. In the dangerous beauty of the snow and mountains I craved the same freedom and release and beauty and simplicity and adventure for my own life.
I came home and the next week was giving a Young Life Club talk. I felt like I had to talk about this moment on the plane watching snowboarding videos on some random, polo-playing guy’s computer. So I did. As I was preparing my talk, however, I struggled with how to relate this to Jesus (an important element of a “good” YL talk). I knew that there was something in this experience that was truer to the heart of Christ than most of my life experiences up to that point, but I just couldn’t explain how or why. So I found some scripture that somewhat fit the way the videos made me feel, I shared my story, and kids continue to refer to me as the girl that cried watching snowboarding videos.
This all happened several months ago. Just a few days ago, I started reading a book my friend Steve wrote called Embraced: Prodigals at the Cross and was reminded of my snowboard-watching moment.
If you read Steve’s book (which you should because it’s a wonderful and important book), you’ll quickly learn that he loves the word shalom (almost as much as he loves the word embrace). Shalom is not just the Hebrew word for peace, it means so, SO much more. In his book Steve quotes C.S. Lewis talking about moments of “piercing joy in beauty, moments that passed almost before he was aware of experiencing them.” Moments that led C.S. Lewis to think, “There’s something more. There’s something better than what I experience in the every day.”
Theologians (including Steve) would say these experiences describe our HUNGER FOR SHALOM. A hunger for life the way it was meant to be. A hunger for communion in the world and in ourselves.
I think the sense of desperation and longing I felt watching the snowboarding videos was exactly this longing for shalom. For life the way God intended in creation. And I’m becoming convinced that this longing is the most significant emotion we can attune ourselves to.
So the question is, when have you recognized within yourself a longing for shalom?
(If you’re curious, you can watch a snowboarding video here.)