When is the last time that you have used the word ‘yearn’ in a sentence? Probably a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Our culture yearns very little. Maybe we like it that way. Maybe we don’t want to yearn anymore. Quite likely, it won’t be long until we delete that word from our vocabulary altogether like a bad ‘selfie’ deleted from our cell phone.
Several years ago I heard Dr. Albert Mohler teach a workshop in which he mentioned that our culture has lost the ability to yearn. The statement impacted me greatly. Today, our culture has continued to miss the beauty of yearning and instant gratification is prevalent now more than ever.
To yearn simply means “to long for something with an earnest, strong desire.” That longing often accompanies hope and involves waiting – something we seem to rarely enjoy anymore. Christ followers long for the return of Christ with eternal hope but what is the equivalent in our culture? And what does our culture long for anymore? Young people may long to be married, to have children, to have a dream job, or to own a dream possession like a car or a house, but those are temporal pleasures. Older people may long to retire or to enjoy grandchildren, but those are not lasting eternal benefits. As believers, we can spread the eternal hope of the Gospel found only in yearning for the return of Jesus Christ.
The Disappearance of Yearning
Technology today has provided fewer opportunities for yearning in everyday life. I can remember having to run and get the camera for the “Kodak moment,” which wasn’t always there by the time I got to the camera, took off the lens cap, and steadied my arm for the shot. The moment sometimes disappeared but when it remained, the Polaroid brand name cameras were the latest greatest gadget! At last, we didn’t have to wait five to seven business days for our film to be developed by the local drugstore! A piece of film on paper was instantly ejected from the camera, but that photo could not be seen right away as it developed before your eyes. Ah, the yearning! We would shake the picture and wait a few minutes for the image to appear with eager anticipation. Though for a short period of time, we gathered around the small paper and yearned during those minutes while waiting with excitement to see our picture. Today, cell phones have high quality camera features and we can take a selfie in a matter of 2 seconds or less. If we don’t like the selfie, we delete it and do it again until we get it just right. There is no yearning. Yearning has ceased.
And we haven’t even mentioned how cell phones provide instant access to the internet at any time. In addition to cell phones, the worldwide web is now available on the Smart Watch – a mobile device with a touch screen display designed to be worn on the wrist. If you don’t wear a watch, Google Glass allows you to have the internet built into your glasses. It is a headset worn like a pair of glasses designed to provide information in a smartphone-like, hands-free, voice-activated format. Users of this device have little for which to yearn. We can ask Google or Siri for almost anything and have an instant answer: “Ok, Google, tell me who the 7th President of the United States was…” The answer is there in less than 2 seconds. No yearning necessary.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Microwave ovens, automatic fireplaces, ice makers, GPS devices, and more are wonderful gifts to us that save us our number one resource: time. Time is the one resource that we use and do not receive back. You may spend $100.00 but you can earn that back, but when you spend 15 minutes of time on something, you never get that time back. It is gone forever. While it may sound like I am a grumpy old man complaining about all of the technology of these “new-fangled gadgets” that brought about the disappearance of yearning, my purpose in this piece is to remind us of how good yearning can be because it produces excitement and hope. It teaches us to be patient and to wait. For believers, we learn to wait upon the Lord and to trust Him. We must embrace yearning as followers of Christ and now we have even more time to yearn and pray than ever before!
Star Wars Awakens Yearning
One recent event that has rebirthed a bit of yearning within our culture, at least in a temporal sense, is Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens. Scripts have been kept top-secret, even from the actors themselves until the day of the filming. Each actor would arrive on the set, be given the script, and then study it that day before performing it later on camera. Actors were not allowed to take the scripts off campus in order to keep the story line secure from release, and as a result there have been very few details leaked out to the public about the film. Anyone who knows some of the plot lines has kept it extremely quiet. It is amazing in this day and age when every tidbit of information is disseminated so quickly.
The secrecy has created a type of yearning within a culture that has forgotten what yearning is, let alone how to yearn gracefully – except maybe a little during Christmas time. In recent weeks, we have been inundated with Facebook posts, tweets, and conversations about the new Star Wars movie. Speculation about the plot is rampant. There is an eagerness in the culture to discover what the beloved, fictitious characters have been up to in the past 30 years. It is like planning a trip to a high school reunion to catch up with old friends after a 30 year absence. Star Wars 7’s mysterious story line also features brand new characters sure to offer excitement, surprises, adventure, and comedy to a large, adoring fan base in what could be an epic movie event. The suspense is producing an incredible season of yearning, building up the excitement for the new release this week.
All of this started in October of 2012 when Disney bought the rights to Star Wars from the Lucasfilm company for $4.05 billion – and they are almost guaranteed to get their money back because of the yearning of a multitude of viewers. 2012 is when the yearning began for most fans of the six movie series. The price tag for yearning was produced in a simple 4 billion dollar transaction. The anticipation of the movie’s release has slowed our culture down and forced it to yearn.
In 2012, fans began to wonder if the original series’ characters would return to the big screen or not. Fans also wondered what happened in the thirty years between the final episode 6 and the new episode 7. It is a testament to the quality of the original productions, effectiveness of the actors, and intriguing storyline. Teens and children who played with the original Star Wars Trilogy’s toys and adored those movies in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s are now adults taking their own children and grandchildren to the new movie and buying merchandise once again. Even those who discovered the second trilogy in the late 1990’s into the 2000’s with an all-new cast have now waited about a decade for this new release and third trilogy. There are now two generations of movie-going fans yearning to see the next installment in the series. Yearning has returned to America, if only until December 18, 2015. And I am glad for the conversations it is sparking.
Yearning Has a Good Purpose
It is good to yearn because it produces a heavenly mindset while living in an earthly existence. The Bible reminds us in Ephesians 5:15-17: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. As believers, we need to make the most of our limited time on this earth by sharing the hope and excitement of the Gospel rather than feeding our insatiable desires of the flesh. And as believers, we need to yearn for the right things like the imminent return of Jesus Christ and we need to share the hope and excitement of that yearning with others. I Thessalonians 4 and 5 remind us of the sure hope we have in the return of Jesus Christ as a triumphant King to reclaim what rightfully belongs to Him.
For those of us who are born again, having trusted in Christ alone for eternal life, yearning for Him to return is a good thing. It is far better than the return of Luke Skywalker and anything this temporal world has to offer.
Join the Conversation:
- What do you yearn for? What is the importance of yearning in your life?
- Can we yearn unbiblically as we well as biblically? In other words, is there a wrong way to yearn and if so, how?
 Adapted from the definition provided from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/yearn?s=t. Accessed December 14, 2015.
 This is not a theological post about the movie’s content (i.e. the force) since we all know it is fictitious.
 I wonder if the movie can live up to the hype. Like anything temporal, it satisfies for a moment but then the yearning returns for more!