The first month of a new year is often a time of expectancy and hope. The onset of the new year typically provides a few weeks during which we celebrate the goodness of God, the faithful promise keeper! We carry with us new visions of satisfaction; replacing yesterday’s memories of despair and hunger. Indeed, we hope – at least in some measure – to discover satisfaction and fulfillment in the year ahead. That’s why I have spent the bulk of January reflecting on the nature and nurture of soul satisfying godly desire!
I grew up believing that desire is evil. I learned to question my desire; to subdue it – beat it into submission or simply deny its existence.
That didn’t work so well. Denying my desire pulled me down a tortuous path littered with a multitude of bad decisions.
DESIRING PERSONHOOD, PLAC’DNESS AND PURPOSE
I have come to believe that desires – in and of themselves – are not sinful or unnatural. They are God-given. The are also, however, easily distorted and misaligned; bent and turned inward often at the expense of interior Shalom and well-being. Desire can, wondrously so, when aimed toward God, produce amazing outcomes.
I believe, for example, that we all share at least three sacred – God given – desires:
- The Desire for Personhood. The desire for personhood constitutes a longing for my internal and external worlds to connect or merge in a seamless and meaningful way. We might express such longing with the words, “I am who I want to be or whom I know I can be.”
- The Desire for Plac’dness. We might express a longing for plac’dness by saying something like, “I am where I want to be; meaningfully involved with the people and places around me.”
- The Desire for Purpose. One could express a desire for purpose in the following ways, “I am doing what I was meant to do,” or, “I feel alive because I know I am doing exactly what I am gifted to do.”
I have, for the month of January, been asking some fundamental questions regarding my deepest desires:
Can I trust Christ with these primal desires? Is He dependable? Will He be faithful with them?
Another way to put it might be:
When I feel unfilled in life or dragged down by life, will I continually and patiently surrender to Christ and trust Him with my pain or will I run to a quick remedy for my pain and seek to grab, grasp, and control desire’s fulfillment on my own?
If I am to surrender my desires to Christ, then it will be because place my complete trust in God and God alone! Therefore, I must intuitively believe He is faithful. Trust cannot flourish where faithfulness is not present. Faithfulness might be called steadfast(ness), firm(ness), reliability or fidelity. Each of these terms represent trustworthy goodness and dependability; accentuating the type of character upon which one might rely in times of need and unfulfilled desires.
HE IS ONE IN WHOM I CAN TRUST!
The Gospels paint a vivid picture of Christ which portray him as one in whom we might trust or one on whom we might depend; one who is faithful, ably to fully satisfy. While numerous passages paint such a picture, Luke 1:53 is one of my favorites,
He has filled the hungry with good things,
This confession of satisfaction in the Messiah is wrapped up in a song that leaps from the lips of Mary. Her manifesto put to music recalls ancient promises and rekindles ancient hope. It’s the hope of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob finding fruition in the Messiah. I am reminded, in portions of Scripture like this one, that God has ALWAYS been a faithful God. One in whom I can confidently place my trust and in whom my desires are fulfilled!
And, though I know this great truth, I equally find myself hungry for more. As Bruce Springsteen growled two decades ago, it seems, everybody has a hungry heart.
This ever firing furnace of hunger cause me to wonder,
“Why do I always hunger for more?”
Why do others around me fail to provide what seems to be such an apparent desire?”
“Does my hunger relate to a perceived absence of or silence from God on my part?”
“Does his silence or seeming absence make Him any less worthy of my trust?”
Just as the Scriptures point to God as the end of all desire, they also speak to times of apparent silence from God. Indeed, one might infer, from passages such as Psalm 80:5, that there are times in life – perhaps even seasons – when God’s absence is palpable:
You have fed us with the bread of tears and made us drink tears by the bucketful.
“You have fed us the bread of tears” – a metaphor for God’s absence. Where or to whom do our longings turn when we are forced – it seems – to feast on God’s absence?
Before asking the question of where or to whom will we turn?, perhaps a question of responsibility might be in order! In other words, maybe we ought to ask,
Who is responsible for God’s absence: is God absence His fault or my fault?
In Psalm 80, His absence seems to represent a ‘self-inflicted’ wound. In this case, it’s not God’s absence as much as it is misaligned human desires which bear the brunt of the blame.
I might suggest that this is also the primary contributor behind our feelings of being perpetually unsatisfied, always on a quest, ever striving for more. Maybe our aim is off the mark?
These reflections on unfulfilled desire and the hope of finding fulfillment in Christ leads me to my final two – numbers five and six – desires for 2016:
- Desire 5: Seek the path of surrender rather than pursue the way of success.
- Desire 6: That Christ – in all things, at all times, in all ways – will become my only, obvious and ultimate end.
The inauguration of the reign of Christ – prophesied (as Mary sings) hundreds of years before its fulfillment – is God’s invitation to trust in Him! It’s an invitation to enjoy His goodness and lean into the security his reign provides! An invitation to rely on Him rather than the self’s proclivity to grasp for the satisfaction of desires He alone provides!
NOT IF BUT TO WHOM OR WHAT!
If I am to experience meaningful personhood, a life-giving sense of plac’dness and a deeply inspired sense of purpose, I must run – not walk – run to God in the face of absence, struggle, confusion, and pain. I believe and have come to know that my truest – most authentic – sense of plac’dness is related to the degree to which my soul is at rest in the peace Christ provides. This quality of rest and peace, or inner strength of heart, can become a wellspring of health and wholeness from which we face our every day – at times overwhelming – realities. Such an interior orientation of rest releases us to say, ‘yes, this is good – truly good,’ regardless of or in spite of the external dynamics always in play!
Though I cannot create an interior condition of health and wholeness (that’s God’s work), its creation does require something of me: Surrender! Mary certainly seemed to epitomize and embody a endowment of inner or interior health. Her response to the Lord’s messenger in Luke 1:38 may reveal why: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
Do you know what the messenger said about her? If he’d had said that to me, I would have run the other way. I might have said, ‘Hold on a minute – I have other plans that don’t include being an integral player in God’s master-plan for humankind.’
Mary’s response is as beautiful as it is impressive. It reveals an inner orientation of peace and rest. An orientation which provides a fountain of strength for the chaos that she now had to endure and from which she could not escape. This is the type of peace I seek to know and long to discover.
The first chapter of the Gospel of Luke is a story of life-giving hope related to God’s fidelity – which ultimately asks a question of us: Will we surrender to Him and His goodness in our life? Will we place our trust in Him regardless of what may come? Once I surrender to Christ, then I will relate to Him in a way that nurtures and reveals the inner reality of a soul that believes He is – at any and all times – my only, ultimate and most obvious option for satisfaction. A soul that fundamentally trusts in Him and looks toward Him for fulfillment and satisfaction!
Trust and Surrender: It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘to whom or what!’
I am going to trust in something or someone! I will surrender to something or someone! I trust and surrender all the time, every day. Typically I trust in and surrender to ‘self’ but it is ever happening and always occurring.
We place trust in or surrender to things or people who just cannot fulfill our deepest most heartfelt desires. Honestly, this is both a burden that’s as unfair as it is overwhelming.
Is there one – anyone – more worthy of our trust and surrender than Christ – the Messiah to whom we look as we enter month number two of 2016?
Disrupting to Renew!