Sharing on line with my old spiritual director my yearning to return to Europe, he shared with me his desire to return to the missions, which he is not allowed to do, because his mission territory is in a Muslim country which is becoming more and more dangerous. His order called him back.
We share a longing to be with the people we love the most in the "elusive elsewhere", as he calls it. We have a tug on the heart for the country we have been both forced to leave in our lives...me, England, and him, a dangerous place I shall not name.
The elusive elsewhere, as this good priest calls it, is not only our favorite missionary territory, but the place of love and service which cannot be conjured up at will, only in obedience. This elusive elsewhere is connected to God's Plan for our lives, the wandering of a heart which is not allowed to rest with those we love the most.
Perhaps this is our purgatory, denied comfort in kindred and locality, not being able to live in our spiritual homes, but forced to be strangers in a strange land.
All Catholics share this tugging of the heart, if we long for heaven first. Our longing for God is the unfilled love of the bride chasing the Bridegroom, who always seems to be in yet another part of the desert of our existence.
One of my favorite spiritual directors was like a father to me, older, wiser, yet steeped in a youthfulness of grace and an openness to the Holy Spirit. He was a famous writer as well as a teacher of theology.
My second outstanding spiritual director, the Opus Dei priest, was one man who I can say for sure has gone through the Dark Night, pursuing perfection, allowing God to purify him and bring him into illumination.
This third great director was a surprise to me, as I was led to him by God, just by continually bumping into him. After the first meeting it was clear I had met a holy man, a brother in Christ, who was not afraid to share the path of darkness which leads to light.
Like the brothers and sisters in the Narnia tales, we have been there and want to go back.
The "there" is where we met Christ in a special way, not because of scenery or comfort, but because we feel in love with God in a special way in that elusive elsewhere.
This elusive elsewhere stays before us, like a map on the wall, like the famous painting in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
One has experienced heaven somewhere in that elusive elsewhere and one desires to go back, always to return. When one cannot, like me, like the good priest, one wants to speak of the loss and the longing, like the children who wanted to go back but did not know how to do so.
Our longing is for Christ and for His Kingdom to come on earth, even in small places, even in the desert. Indeed, our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord. We keep seeking Him in the elusive elsewhere until He allows us to find Him.