The weather was warm and bright, a treat for mid January, and the soft crooning of James Taylor filled our mini van. The combination did me in and before I knew it I was gone, gone, gone, Gone to Carolina in My Mind.
The blue sky and warm sunshine, the music, it all took me back to my days in North Carolina and all the people I love there. An ache lodged in my heart. Everything in me wanted to turn back the clock, hit the road, head south.
It’s a rather disruptive feeling, these aches that appear in the midst of an otherwise contented spirit. I love my life here in Michigan. I wouldn’t trade it for all the sunny south, but there are times like these when I miss that place…when I miss those people so much it hurts. I mean, really and truly and physically hurts. It takes my breath away.
When this happens there’s always an intense temptation to avoid the ache, to avoid the hurt.
When I’m cooking supper, I love to set my playlist on shuffle and let my mind wander as noodles boil and beef sizzles in the skillet. Inevitably a song will play that triggers some forgotten ache.
Alan Jackson’s Remember When makes me miss my Uncle John.
Passion’s Oceans makes me pine to relive the day my little Promise was born.
Elizabeth Mitchell’s You are My Sunshine makes me remember, all too clearly, how fast these days of tiny feet dancing through the house will be nothing but a memory.
When the first notes of these songs trickle into the room my impulse is to hit skip, to not let my heart go there, to avoid feeling the ache.
God created me to be a deeply emotional being, and He also created me to bring those emotions to Him, to use them as a vessel through which He can work.
When triggers like these arise in smells, music, pictures, memories, in tiny details that fill our lives we always have a choice. Allow our hearts to feel whatever they long to feel and take those feelings to God allowing Him to show us what He’s after or block our hearts from pain, from His work, from transformation and healing.
What I experienced this weekend, in my longing for North Carolina is a beautiful reminder to me to resist the urge to block my heart from pain and consequently from Him.
And yes, it’s confusing, yes it’s disruptive, yes it’s painful and hard. But it’s also an invitation. An invitation from the King of my heart to draw closer to Him, to let Him do something beautiful and sustaining in me.
How else do we get through life intact than by aching and feeling and opening to Him?
And what are these aches and desires really but a longing for Him and His Kingdom? My heart may ache for Carolina, for the faces of family and friends. But on a deeper level I’m also yearning for Him, for His beauty, for relationship, for a time and a place when there will be no more good-byes.
I’m aching for my King and His kingdom.
I’m aching for His work in me.
I’m aching for home.
Dear ones, when an ache crops up in your heart don’t ignore it. Like a winding, twisting, back-country road, follow it to Him.