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  • Going With The Gruenings

Not my home...

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

When I first came to the US, everything was new. Everything was cool. Everything had a certain appeal because it was new to me. Whether it was foods at a restaurant, smells in a typical 1970's bungalow or just the sheer size of things - all things peaked my interest.


While I was glad to be in a new place, live with the person I loved most, and be able to build my own life, something was always stirring inside me.


From the time that Deanna and I were first talking to each other - just as friends - we talked about ministry and what that would look like. We discussed what was most important about ministry and how we saw those things going. Over the years, as we grew in our faith and learned about ministry, not theoretically, but practically, some of those ideas changed, of course. When we got married, we knew that God would perhaps send us somewhere together to serve him. We were always ready for that.


Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12)


Throughout my eighteen years in the US, I always had an undercurrent of longing in my heart. There was a longing in my heart. I couldn't describe it at first. I didn't know where it was even coming from. Then one day, I'm not sure if it was something I saw on TV or if it was while visiting Germany, I had a very intense feeling in my heart - a longing that made me feel like incomplete, sick, maybe even crushed. It definitely felt like "hope deferred" and over the years it felt like it was making me more and more sick. The best I could explain it at the time was this: "There is a certain type of tree and there grass and sand around it, that all creates a certain picture and a certain feel, that is very hard for me to explain." Not very helpful is it? It wasn't for me either. First, I didn't know what it was, then, I didn't know how knowing this "picture" should or would make a difference at all.


Hope gained...


When we moved back to Germany last year, I got to see and hear and smell a lot of the things that I know I had been longing for. Years and years had passed with the absence of these things. Now, I had them back. For example, we went mushroom hunting in the Fall and I realized, yes, it's these trees, it's the grass, the sand, and the smells and sounds in these woods... I finally have it back.


I was elated. I felt I had gained what I had hoped for. I was finally where I had felt I needed to be.


Just to be clear, I'm not talking about a weird, supernatural or esoteric sort of feeling. I'm talking about a flesh-driven, self-centered longing for something that made me feel like I had what I wanted. I was glad that God had called us to Germany. We were sure that it was so. In some way I could say, this "hope gained" is just the cherry on top. Why wouldn't I be happy to be fulfilling God's calling on my life and be able to see, hear, smell, and experience the things I had been longing for for so long?


Hope evaded...


God is not concerned about your comfort. God is concerned about your character. That's a tough pill to swallow. We want to FEEL what we want to feel. More than that, we want what we want when we want it. When hope evades, we feel lost, forgotten, or even mistreated - yes, even by God. It's not theologically correct but functionally it's often exactly where we are at.


Hope evaded... that's exactly what happened next. As soon as I got used to the fact that I now had the things I had been longing for over the years, I began feeling another feeling. It was very familiar. It was a deep longing and I couldn't ignore it. Can you guess what it was?


It was a longing for the things I didn't have. Hope had indeed evaded. What my flesh wanted, the things I felt so deeply, so physically even, they proved intangible. I felt quite empty. I felt what I had been wanting had not only evaded, it had moved far away - it was not where I thought I would have found it.


Hope insufficient!


Hope not rooted in Christ is no hope at all. All earthly things, even intangible or intellectual things that don't have Christ at the center cannot and will not fill any void of longing.


That was the problem essentially my problem though. What I had finally found was not filling the void. It temporarily relieved the longing. Worse, the longing had moved. It had moved back across the big Atlantic pond. I now was longing for things in the US that I didn't have in Germany.


On our trip to the US this summer, I got to see, hear, and experience many of the things I was longing for. Yet, again, they proved insufficient.


Wise up!

What is a trained biblical counselor, a missionary, doing talking about things of his own heart that are clearly messed up? Well, that's just it - we all are still on a journey. We all still need to grow. Some of the things we struggle with are not discerned by mere intellectual exercises or general growth in knowledge. We've got to grow in wisdom. Wisdom means, knowledge applied. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don't know how to apply it, you will not be wise.


Sometimes we have to learn those kinds of things in the school of hard knocks. It's not what we want or how we want it, but God doesn't make mistakes. Like we said earlier, God is concerned with our character first and foremost.


But a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov 13:12)


I needed refinement. My character wasn't - and still isn't - what God wants it to be. In this story which I hope is encouraging to where you are at, I learned three things:


1) Desires lurk in the dark recesses of my heart

I didn't know that I was longing for something that was distracting me. It was keeping my eyes off the Lord and on something in creation. The object was something in Germany first - and then in the US. But the heart of it was the fulfillment of something I thought I needed. It was self-serving.

2) Worldly things can never satisfy spiritual longings

I thought that the sights and smells and sounds of my German homeland would satisfy once I could fully embrace them again. Yet, the feeling was short-lived and then the desire focused on something that was again thousands of miles away. Nothing is more disappointing than learning that the goal has moved and you need to try again.

3) Hope is found in Christ alone

"Good Christians" don't need to be told this - hope is only found in Jesus Christ. Our theology is not the problem. Well, it is, so let's be more specific. Our spoken theology (what we say we believe) is not the problem. Our functional theology (what we show through action that we actually believe) is the problem. We say the right things but live something different. We don't do this intentionally, we just lose our way. We are distracted, tired, frustrated, ignorant or enamored by something else. It sometimes takes a while before we figure out that this earthly thing was not what was going to satisfy us - and that hope to have our longings fulfilled can only come from the one who says of himself that he "is our life" (see Col 3:4).


In the ups and downs of walking through this in real life, something that stuck out to me is this: Because Christ is my life, because Christ has opened heaven to me, the things I long for have changed and will change. The desires I have find their true fulfillment in God himself. What I am longing for on earth is just a broken and miniscule representation of that which God has designed us for. That doesn't mean that we cannot or should not enjoy earthly things. I do believe with all my heart that God rejoices when we rejoice in what he has created - and even when we enjoy that which we have created and then enjoy - it's creativity and pleasure in one.


The danger is in things eclipsing our wonder, appreciation of and desire for God himself. Then these things become idols and lead us to hope deferred makes the heart sick.


What I have concluded is that what we have to keep our eyes and hearts locked in on is this: "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." -- Philippians 3:20-21


May God grant us to remember and focus on that which is not yet, that our hearts may not be troubled and sick. One day, our wishes will be blown to pieces by the grandeur and glory of God and our hearts will be filled with joy unspeakable.


I cannot wait.




P.S. Where do you have longings that need to be subjected to Christ and His purposes so that your heart doesn't get sick and you have wisdom to focus on things in this world with the right perspective.


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Dennis Gruening
Dennis Gruening
31 jul 2022

Dontie - thank you for your reply. Good to know we are not alone in feeling this way. We loved seeing all of you - and hanging out with Christopher was a blessing in more than one way!

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Dontie Kidwell
Dontie Kidwell
29 jul 2022

This was really profound. I think as TCKs (Third Culture Kids), as your three girls are, this wraps up the struggle in our hearts throughout our lives. We long for the other place, but when in that other place, we long for the OTHER place. I think I feel most comfortable in an airport...somewhere between going somewhere! This was a tough lesson for me in college. I longed to be in Kenya, my heart home. However, when I returned for visits, though it was so good to be home, it wasn't what I imagined and dreamed of. God gently led me to see no where was perfect...nowhere filled that hole except HIM. Wherever HE called me, US or A…

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