I picked up these little flowers on a walk a few days ago. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but they are very tiny flowers, about the size of a fingertip.


So there are these voices in your head, there are these unfulfilled longings, and other secret pains and not-so-secret pains each day. And you feel it, you see it: such a beautiful world, such a beautiful but fallen, broken world that you live in, and here we are, living right in the middle of the beauty and the fallen. The thing is? We fit that category, too: beautiful, broken, sinful, fallen, redeemed, loved. 

I heard a new word recently: “Saudade”. It’s a captivating word, a beautiful word—and a very painful one. Here’s the definition shared: “a vague, constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, a nostalgia longing for someone or something loved and then lost.”

I looked it up to learn more about it, and found out that the word is considered one of the most difficult to translate. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Huffington Post that offers further explanation (

“Saudade is a Portuguese expression that is almost untranslatable. The best way to describe it is: the presence of absence. It is a longing for someone or something that you remember fondly but know you can never experience again. It is an awareness of the absence of a person or thing, which puts you in a deep emotional state of sadness. The presence of absence grapples with those who should be here but aren’t. It is a form of homesickness and deep yearning. You are among thousands of people but none is the one you want to be by your side.”

The “presence of absence”; that is a lovely, poetic way of describing what this is….

This is a beautiful word, but I’m not saying “saudade” feels beautiful. It can be reflective of a good thing– perhaps you’ve experienced something like this, such as the loss of someone you love and the grief of knowing their absence; that ache of missing someone special is “saudade”. (I have not yet experienced that kind of loss or grief, as I’ve never had anyone close to me die, but I know it’s coming.) Even in its pain, the mere existence of saudade suggests that something, or someone, lovely and beautiful, once existed or does exist in absentia.    

But it is, quite frankly, a deep grief, despondency, a deep sadness. It also represents some unfulfilled longings, something unrequited… like loving a person who is absent from you, who is not near you, who is not with you…. Do you know this kind of “saudade”, this kind of turmoil….

(I wonder- if such a situation exists- do you think it is foolish to run to that person, make an absolute fool of oneself, knowing full well that rejection, pity, or God forbid- a total shut-out and being blocked out entirely, could result? Or the fact they’ll think you’re crazy? What if they might be mocking you? How does one know?)

Perhaps I am foolish to suggest such a thing, to pose that question. Perhaps I make a fool of myself more than I realize (and actually, the truth is, I will inadvertently make a fool of myself in the future at some time or another). Perhaps I am an idiot, because I certainly feel like one at times.  All those are very real and probable and- well, they are likely, or have been likely at some point or another. I find I need forgiveness at regular intervals for varying levels of stupidity. Humbling. My new motto, I guess, is that life’s too short not to choose to make a fool of oneself sometimes, at the expense of one’s own humiliation, or rejection, or mockery, whatever the case may be, to tell someone you love them, or that God loves them, or reach out beyond yourself in some way. Perhaps it’s easier to do via writing, in some instances. I guess that would be my advice, if you find yourself wondering what to do in such a situation. It may not have the result you hope for, but not trying, not speaking up, creates further regrets, and digs deep wells of saudade. (Well, that is my opinion.)  

I’m regularly reminded that all I really have is Christ. I know it is certainly a merciful and gracious thing of God to be reminded, because knowing that Christ is all we have is something we need to know, as painful as it may be to be reminded of that and know it, because it means we are suffering the loneliness and ache of longing, the absence of someone, some sort of “saudade”.   

Of course, there is the spiritual saudade, too, and our longing for Jesus, our longing for our heavenly home, and the void inside of us which only Jesus can fill. Even all of creation has this longing, an “eager expectation” for deliverance and restoration (Romans 8:19). All of creation experiences “saudade”, for what once was and is now lost. (Hey- I guess we’re all in this together–we’re all experiencing this “saudade” at some level.)

As long as we are human and living in this beautiful, fallen world, there will be varying forms of “saudade”.