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The Human Condition: Waiting for Redemption

As I drove down the highway, desperate to shake the knotted ropes in my stomach, tears welling in my eyes, an unswallowable lump in my throat, I called out audibly “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Then, under my breath, muttered, “Only You can take this.” Join Brian Miller today as he draws from personal experiences to show us our need for redemption and deliverance from our human condition.
The Portuguese have a word that is untranslatable directly to English in a single world.
Saudade (pronounced soh-dahd in English; soh-dah-juh in Portugeuse) has this translation per Dictionary.com:
a deep emotional state of melancholic longing for a person or thing that is absent
Part of the mystique of the longing is the implication that that which is absent can never be regained. It’s a poignant sadness. A dreamy wistfulness. Like “grasping at the wind,” to use a familiar phrase from Ecclesiastes.
Why do I bring up a word of which most of you have never heard? Can I explain it briefly? Probably not. But let’s try. I promise there is a point.
If we backtrack a month or so, it was the weekend before the start of my favorite time of summer, the two weeks of Bible camp we put on for kids 8-12, then a weekend for families, and finally, teen week. It’s a wonderful time. My wife took over running the camp kitchen from my mom a couple of years ago, her dad is the guest speaker for junior camp, and it’s an amazing couple of weeks being immersed in God’s Word and all the other summer camp activities.
This year was no different. The junior week ended on a high note—me getting drenched at the end of a skit—and I was looking forward to fellowship with other believers and hearing some good teaching over the weekend. But I woke up sick. Not from the drenching; my dad and others got knocked down, too. I made an effort to come back out to the camp that day, but my wife sent me home to bed. I stayed there for two days before returning off and on for teen camp as I regained my strength. But the illness did more than sap my physical strength, it sapped me emotionally, and I felt a sense of disconnect the second week.
On the final day of camp as the kids were packing up to go home, an overwhelming sense of, well, saudade swept over me as I looked around the camp. You see, I’ve been going to 103-year-old Camp Sigel for most of the past 34 years, since I was 12. I was baptized in the lake there at the old beach. Every single one of my 48 first cousins on my mom’s side went to camp there, and, of course, my brothers did as well. We’ve had church picnics and family reunions, and there are just so many memories.
My brother Jonathan loved camp. He loved coming home to Minnesota from Wyoming in the summer to be a counselor. He’d climb 60 feet up a tree for the annual counselor hunt and no one could ever find him. His last camp was 16 years ago, though it seems wrong to write that sentence. It seems like yesterday. He often celebrated his birthday at camp. This year, he would have turned 43 the week after. He’s forever 27 in my memory; a single car accident took my brother from this plane over 15 years ago and left his two children without an earthly father.
So, that, and the dawning realization that my cousins are all grown and have families of their own now and are spread across the country in different communities and churches or serving overseas, and we’re never going to be all together at this place again—it just hit me. And the sense that I had missed out on so much, not only the past weekend, but in my years of wandering in the world’s wasteland. I had missed out on so much ministry, so much teaching, so many opportunities.
So, there I was that day, trapped in the grip of the deepest feeling of saudade. I’m no stranger to sentimentality, and normally I enjoy basking in old memories, even the sad ones, and in a strange way, enjoy it. The Portuguese call it “the love that remains.” But this feeling was so intense, it hurt physically. Really, that sense of deep nostalgia, that intense helpless longing for what’s lost, never to be regained, is just another version of grief.

What peace He gives when we but ask, even when it’s half-heartedly. What grace!

Who knows about grief? I know one called the Man of Sorrows. He was well acquainted with grief. He wept. As I drove down the highway, desperate to shake the knotted ropes in my stomach, tears welling in my eyes, an unswallowable lump in my throat, I called out audibly “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Then, under my breath, muttered, “Only You can take this.”
I wasn’t exactly asking, and I don’t know how believing I was, and I tried to think of something else. As I pulled up to a stop sign a minute later, I realized: it was gone. What peace He gives when we but ask, even when it’s half-heartedly. What grace!
I’m not going to lie. The saudade returned over the next few days, especially for Jon’s birthday. Last year, my dear friend Joni was killed by a drunk driver on his birthday, just a couple of months shy of her 40th. This year, a few days after his birthday, my “birthday twin”—as she would call me because we share a December birthday—my friend Jaime had a heart attack and died unexpectedly. She was close to my brother’s age and left a husband and two kids. Tragic.
But the feeling was muted, not intense, and the memories, though bittersweet, were precious. There were still regrets, as there always are when someone passes unexpectedly, but in reflection, I was buoyed by His gracious hand through those difficult waters.
As I reflect on saudade, something I had romanticized in the past—Brazil takes it to the extreme celebrating Saudade Day on January 30—I realized how much it is a reflection of the human condition.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly …” it says in I Corinthians 13:12.
There’s a reason we’re filled with longing for a loved one, for the innocence of youth, for a long-lost moment in time where everything felt perfect, for something we can never recreate, for fulfillment —an impossible task without the only One who can make us whole, for the One that fills with living water.

In reflection, it turns out that saudade is just a facet of our deep longing for redemption, for Jesus to restore all things as He promised He will someday.

I Corinthians 13:12 continues: “…but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves—fully, wholly, completely. Inside and out. Our desires. Our fears. Our longings. Our aches. Our deepest thoughts. And one day, we will know fully as He does.
In reflection, it turns out that saudade is just a facet of our deep longing for redemption, for Jesus to restore all things as He promised He will someday. He will not only redeem us, and wipe away our tears, and give us the answers and understanding we crave and cannot attain in our human futility, but He will redeem all of Creation itself.
“Even so, come Lord Jesus!”
While we wait for that day of redemption and go through the ups and downs of this life, we ought to do what Jesus instructed—not only pray for His righteous eternal kingdom to come, but also to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15). There is no greater privilege.
Author Bio:
Brian Miller is a longtime newspaper columnist and freelance writer. He and his wife Bethany, a fellow “preacher’s kid” (and talented musician and chef) split their time between Eveleth, MN, and South Padre Island, TX. Brian seeks to use lessons learned in his life of God’s unchanging love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness to bring hope to others who may be struggling. The Millers are working towards setting up an as-yet-unnamed non-profit and appreciate your prayers. You may write to him at bd1976@pm.me.
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