Recently I had a bit of a revelation. In theological and spiritual terms we often refer to what we call The Holy Longing. This Holy Longing is God, within us, impelling us to be closer to do his will, to listen, to be kind, and to love one another as we are invited to love God. For those who feel like they have a relationship with God already, through their faith path, their chosen religion, this may appear obvious. The hunger and desire to stay close to God and try and please God is an experiential activity. In the ideal world, we can feel God within us. Whatever channel is drawing us towards God.

However, if there is no feeling or recognition of God in your life there’s still something else going on. There is an innate desire to belong. We want to belong. To be loved. To be cared for. To be a part of a family, a community, a group, the nation. This desire to belong can be found in the word belonging.

We want to and we do “be” in the world. And our longing for the above is all driven by Love. So, the combination of both Be and longing creates a desire within us that we cannot turn off.

This is tricky countryside with a perspective. Belonging is at our core. It’s where our heart our head and our soul converge. It’s where psychology, physiology, and spirituality reside together. We may not recognize this depending on our perspective. Or we may place more emphasis on one versus the other. This is often where we end up with difficulties. My path is better than your path. Your way is less rich than my way. My God loves you more than your God. However, I digress. Regardless of the path we end up still with this need for belonging, you cannot turn it off, it’s persistent. Even in places where we don’t belong, we don’t want to be rejected. Even if we’re not supposed to belong there, again we can’t turn it off.

So eventually I get into the topic of this reflection the magnetic longing. Our longings are often, perhaps always, driven by a need for something. It might be something that we do need, like food or stability in our lives, or something that’s less critical like the latest car, or a new sofa.

Usually, even an unnecessary need, like a new car, leads to fulfillment in the short term. But it never truly satisfies. The only thing that really satisfies is belonging and the relationships it brings. Where we’re with the ones that we love, when we reconcile with those that we don’t, where we are accepted, or rejected because of doing or saying the right thing.

Nevertheless, we have this driving force within us, this magnetic longing, that brings us somewhere further on our journey. It’s extremely difficult for me to try and describe this in a short reflection or some prose as I am trying now. The poem that’s attached describes, perhaps better how we connect our needs, and fulfillment, and more needs in what a spiritual journey. Even if we don’t recognize it as such.

The magnetic longing drives us, not just like a GPS, not like a compass, but more as a magnet pulling us in One Direction or another. Recognition of the source of this magnetic longing may be the answer.

Are we fulfilling our own magnetic longings purely for self-fulfillment. Which usually leads nowhere after the initial party is over. Perhaps after reading this poem that follows, you may recognize the magnetic longing in your life. Maybe there’s more than one, striving either with or against each other. Have a blessed week.

A Garden of Belonging

The Magnetic Longing

Here I go again, needing.

Needing to be a part of the conversation,

Needing to be included,

Needing to be heard.


Where does this needing some from,

The internal demon who keeps me wanting to,


To be myself,

To be with others,

To be wanted.

Where is the switch for this magnetic pulse,

Which keeps me wanting more.

More conversation,

More understanding,

More empathy,

More love.

More love.


For the compass is love,

And Magnetic North is driving me mad to get some,

This north, which is my longing,

Pulling me in directions I am uncomfortable with,

But need to go.

The fork in the road is easily decided,

Not by me,

But by the One who knows the way.

The way, which is my longing,

The longing which is the Other within.

The God who placed the longing there,

If only I can be silent and listen,

Then, I will not see the way,

I will know it.

I will not feel the way,

I will follow it.

I will not fulfil myself,

I will be fulfilled.

This magnetic longing.

Reflection, poem and image Copyright 2023 Michael J. Cunningham OFS

Oh hi there 👋 It’s wonderful to meet you.

Sign up to receive a new Spiritual Break reflection in your inbox, every week.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

5 thoughts on “The Magnetic Longing

  1. Thanks for another poignant message. I think I do belong, although maybe not in a conventional way. Seems I do pretty well these days in solitude, while not being closed to some new form of belonging. Different stages of life offer varying ways of belonging.

    I remember a book I looked at some years ago that resonated. “The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality,” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Will take another look at it.

    1. Hi Tim, I have not read the Bonhoeffer book, but he is an icon in many circles. Richard Roheiser has once more recent also called the Holy Longing which I am sure you would enjoy.

Leave a Reply