In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think my desires are incredibly important. My desire for the annihilation of injustice in my generation? Yes. My desire for the people I love to live happy, fulfilled lives? Maybe. My desire for companionship? Not so much. There are simply bigger problems to tackle, and after all, if I truly were following God with my whole heart, I wouldn’t even struggle with inconsequential things like that. My heart would be so lost in love with God that my only desire, for ever and ever, would be to sit at his feet and drink deeply from the everlasting fountain of love and wisdom.
So, when I do struggle with desires that aren’t directly related to my relationship with God I feel like I’m somehow failing as a Christian. I begin to repent of the desire – terrified at its enormity and depth – and beg God to instead fill me with a desire for Him and only Him. I feel weak, immature, not spiritual enough. And for goodness sake, I’ve been a Christian my whole life. Haven’t I learned to be solely satisfied in my relationship with God?
Well, I hit a big learning curve recently. Everything I’ve read in the last month has been centered around the same theme, as if God was trying to drive home his point through every possible medium. In reading through all four gospels simultaneously, I noticed that Jesus had a peculiar habit of asking clearly handicapped people what they wanted him to do for them. If a blind man presents himself to a man known to be a Healer, it would seem obvious that he doesn’t want an autograph – he wants his sight. Yet, the mysterious Healer almost always asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” I was surprised that none of the people he healed didn’t retort, “Uh, I’m blind/crippled. What do you think I want?” I certainly would have.
But last week, I finally got it. In order to ask for what you want, you have to both know what you want and believe that it is possible. As simple as that sounds, it is terribly difficult to live out on a daily basis. Admitting what I want in the deepest parts of my heart is not something I do with myself, let alone other people. Fewer desires means fewer chances to be disappointed. It’s easier to exist with a deadened heart, than with one that shamelessly and constantly desires. As John Eldredge says in his incredibly pertinent book, The Journey of Desire, “To live with desire is to choose vulnerability over self-protection; to admit our desire and seek help beyond ourselves is even more vulnerable.”
Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” because asking for what you want is a huge leap of faith and an incredibly vulnerable venture. What if I ask for what I really want and he doesn’t give it to me? It’s easier to pray, “Lord, let your will be done,” and pretend that we don’t care about the outcome. That way, I feel more spiritual, because I’m not involving my heart, thereby keeping my desires under control. But the man I’m supposed to model my life after, when he was faced with the most difficult, most painful task didn’t pretend like he was emotionless or void of desires. Right before he was arrested, he says to his friends, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” And then to God he says, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me.”
Yet, somehow we tell ourselves we’re not allowed to be honest with God and tell him what we really want. Or we trick ourselves into thinking we’re being honest when we haven’t even scratched the surface of our true desires. Asking God for the right job might seem like an honest request, whereas the desire behind that prayer is really to feel secure or valuable or worth something. That is what we’re supposed to be communicating to God. But how uncomfortable is it to pray, “Lord, I want this thing because it will make me feel more secure and valuable.”? Yet therein lies the beauty of being vulnerable with God – when I’m willing to dig deep into my storehouse of desire, I can see more clearly where my desires are not in line with his and he can begin pruning them.
I’ve been working on being vulnerable with God this week and the lessons I’ve learned about his character are phenomenal. He truly is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. The moment I was honest about what I really wanted, he provided it with such swiftness that it completely blew me away. Gone are the days when I’ll pray generic prayers about the will of God. Gone are the days when my emotionless prayers are proof that I’m too scared to hope. Living with desire is living with a never-ending thirst – it is mostly frustrating but I’d rather feel alive than merely exist in the pattern of my old ways.