Advent Retreat – Exploring our Longings


Longing is hard wired in us. Sometimes it is for the restoration of a lost past.

Sometimes it is for unrealised dreams. Sometimes it is for outcomes yet to be realised. Those longings are also powerful factors in dictating our behaviour and indeed our whole attitude to life. That can sometimes be for the good, giving us motivation and a sense of direction in our lives, goals to aspire to.

They can also work against us, distorting our view of life and our goals, often without us even realising it.

It is, therefore, worth spending time in unpacking and examining our longings and that is the exploration for this first unit of the retreat. You may want to have an initial go at creating your list and then come back to it and see if further items pop up.

Take time to review your longings and write them down. They can be anything from something quite mundane like getting back to your favourite pub or watching your favourite team to being able to see grandchildren again or hug your friends. They may involve really big life issues about relationships or your job or where you live. They may be backward looking, longing for the restoration of something that is currently lost or forward looking to some outcome you would like to see in the future. Nothing is too trivial. Nothing is too silly. If it is part of you then note it down.

Then move outwards from your longings for yourself to the longings you have on behalf of other people and for the world and future generations. Nothing is too big.

When you have made your lists then you can begin to organise them. You can divide them in various ways. You can divide them between past and future longings. You can categorise them on the basis of purely personal longings and longings you have on behalf of other people and the world as a whole. Think about how the balance between the two looks. Finally you can split them between longings that are realistic and ones that aren’t.

When you have done that it is time to prioritise. Which longings can I work on now and begin to translate from yearning to reality? Look also for ones that are not doing you any good or are holding you back, those that have in some way become toxic. In Unit 4 we will look more at what to do next.

Just a note about what to do with the frustrations and heartache caused by unrealised or unrealistic longings. One good way is to help others, perhaps children, grandchildren, younger colleagues or friends, to realise their longings. This can help another person as well as being fulfilling and healing for yourself. Of course, it is important that you are helping them to realise their longings not trying to make them fulfil yours or to live through them as can happen especially in families.

Finally remember that not all longings can be fulfilled and certainly not fully.

(See Unit 2 for more on that). So once again be gentle with yourself.


Psalm 63


Come, creator Spirit, source of life;
sustain us when out hearts are heavy
and our wells have run dry,
for you are the Father’s gift,
with him who is our living water,
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen


Dvorak ‘New World Symphony’ 2nd Movement: Largo