Cloudy day over Bridger Mountains

Passion and Longing in Bozeman

Brett Desper, YTI Lecturer in Discipleship and Spirituality

May 3, 2019


I was sitting in a coffee shop looking out the window at the Bridger mountains a few days ago when I was overwhelmed by the immense beauty of the view. To be sure, Bozeman is a beautiful place in which to live by any standard, but this day seemed particularly wonderful to me. It was not a bright, sunny day, but rather a semi-overcast scene where brief moments of sunlight would strike the peaks around me. Bozeman was fairly warm and muddy. However, the peaks were covered with snow and were magnificent whether the sun was striking them or they lay in the shadows of the slowly moving clouds. I was overcome with a sense of longing that was joyous and melancholic at the same time. The experience was short but very powerful.

In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis calls the feeling I had sehnsucht – an intense longing or desire. In Pilgrim’s Regress he stated it was, “That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.” It is sweet, emotional, and fleeting. Yet, I think it is a glimpse of the desire that lurks deep within us for a restoration of humanity and creation to what both were meant to be. I have learned to cherish these moments. They serve as reminders and encouragement to stay the course and follow the calling of the Father as well as a hint of the promise of what is yet to be.

I need to state here, for full disclosure, that I am not a particular fan of long hikes in the wilderness, camping, or (shudder) backpacking. However, I have found that these moments of sehnsucht are usually initiated by contact with nature, and I must admit that I need to take the time to get out in it. Scripture tells us that all of creation proclaims the mighty works of God and speaks of his glory! Small wonder that time spent in nature can help us to connect to Him. I am reminded of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that describes the wonder that I have experienced from nature. I would like to close with it.

God’s Grandeur

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
     It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
     It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
     And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
     And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
     There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
     Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
     World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

My prayer for you is that you would experience the wonder of God’s work in creation this month and feel the amazing longing that can propel us forward and give us hope.

Blessings.