Longing: The Original Covert Category


Bedtime Monkey Business. Ayden and Me. June, 2009. 

The Hole in Every Heart
“Say ‘Happy Mother’s Day,'” I coached as I tucked toddler Cadence into the bed in our guest room. “Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. So when your mommy gets here, you want to say, ‘Happy Mother’s Day!'”

“Happy Muddersday,” he chirped.

“Great! Now say, ‘I love you, Mommy!'”

He blinked up at me, silent.

I should have seen it coming. But I didn’t. Mission-focused, I forged onward:

“Say, ‘I love you, Mommy!'”

That sweet little face crumpled; tears welled and flowed down his face. “Ooh, shh,” I murmured, gathering him into my arms. “You miss your mommy, don’t you?”

Cadence’s wail swelled like an approaching siren. I rubbed his back, rocked, soothed. “Shh, shh. Mommy will be here tomorrow. Shh.”

My heart broke for my grandson’s tender heart. 

“Did I hear Cadence crying?” Rich asked as I returned downstairs.

“Yes,” I said. “He’s sleeping now, though. He misses his mother, but he doesn’t have the words to tell me he’s missing his mother. It’s like a covert category.”

“A wha-a-a?”

“It’s a linguistic concept. Say your language has the words, elm, beech, oak, maple, and you could group an elm, a beech, an oak, and a maple together, but you don’t have a name–tree–for the group.  ‘Tree’ is what we’d call a covert category.”

My husband’s face told me I’d strayed too far down the path of linguistic theory for a Saturday night.

Longing is built right into us. We’re born with it. Newborns gaze into their parents’ faces.

Little boys who are not-yet-two long for their mommies, even when they’re snug at their grandparents’ house. 

For many of us, years pass, decades pass, and still we search for something to plug that hole in our hearts.

The longing is real, as real as a maple. Or an oak.

Even when we can’t–or won’t–name it. 

Only one stopper is a perfect fit. But while we’re busy looking, love leaks right out of our hearts. 

We triy to cram wrong-sized corks in the hole: Achievement. Money. Sex. Me, I tried all kinds of bungs. And all I managed to do was stretch that hole right out of shape.

But the hole, it knows. It’s a God-sized hole, and no matter how badly I rip its edges trying to shove some other stopper in, it bounces right back to its holy dimensions. 

God created us to long for Him, to desire His dwelling in our hearts.

I’ve learned that to live wholehearted, I had to fill that hole with Him.

Once we stanch love’s hemorrhage, we begin to live as we were made to: Fullhearted.

 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NIV)


  1. I love this! The whole thing is rife with goodness. Thank you for your wisdom and even the beauty of the photo of you and your grandson. Longing — it is a gift so that we may be filled.
    ~ Patty

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