How long has it been since you’ve felt a deep longing? I don’t mean a rumbly tummy when a cheeseburger commercial flashes on the screen. I mean the kind of longing that makes your chest constrict and your innards claw to come out—how long has it been?
In a world of instant gratification, I fear we’ve lost the thrill of desire. We’ve lost the exquisite groan of yearning. And it’s weakened our ability—our determination—to press into God.
Re-Learning the Art of Desire
If you’re like me, you may have repressed your desires for so long that you don’t even remember what true longing feels like. Perhaps you’ve feared true desire would lead you into sin, or maybe you (like me) are weary of dashed hopes and have given up yearning for the more stoic life of contentment. Don’t get me wrong…contentment is good, but to live a life void of desire robs us of a truly passionate relationship with our Creator.
When I read the first chapter of Sacred Rhythm, I broke out in a cold sweat. How could I name my desires when I’d worked for years to control and/or ignore them?
I’m fifty-one years old, and I know me well enough to distrust myself. Jeremiah the prophet shared my concern:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
But the LORD answered Jeremiah’s concerns with this promise:
“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jeremiah 17:10
So we must open up the heart and mind for the Lord to examine our desires. Eee-gad! Why does it sound so scary when I know He knows my heart and mind anyway? I think it’s because it means I must examine my heart and mind with Him…and sort through the desires that are pleasing and displeasing to Him.
Those Tricky Desires
If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17); however, as long as we are trapped in these mortal bodies, we are at war with the prince of this world—Satan. Ruth Haley Barton reminds us:
“…there are desires within us that work against the life of the Spirit within us—desires rooted in selfish ambition, pride, lust, fear, self-protection and many other unexamined motives. These desires lurk within all of us, and that is why giving any attention at all to desire feels like opening up Pandora’s box.”
As always, God’s Word gives us a beautiful—and practical—example of His ability to reveal the gold from dross in our desires.
Naming our Desire in Christ’s Presence
In Mark 10:35-45, James and John came to Jesus secretly (v.41) and asked Jesus to “do whatever” they asked. Jesus replied:
“What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:36
James and John proceeded to ask for a place of honor in heaven, to sit on Jesus’ right and left in His glory. When Jesus challenged them, asking if they could drink the cup of suffering He would drink, the brothers assured the Savior they could. Oh my, what arrogance.
The next section of Mark’s Gospel (10:46-52) tells a very different story. Blind Bartimaeus was begging on the side of the road in Jericho. He heard the commotion and realized Jesus, the Messiah, was passing by so TWICE he cried out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47, 48). Jesus heard his cry and replied:
“What do you want me to do for you?” Mark 10:51
Two very different circumstances, but the same question from our Savior. That single question strips away all the pretense, all the how-tos and what ifs. It left those men face-to-face with the Creator of all things who could do anything. As I considered these two scenarios in Mark’s Gospel, I learned a few things…
Lessons on Desire:
- If (like James and John) we’re ashamed to share our desire with our closest friends, the desire may be rooted in something sinful.
- If (like James and John) we feel we must manipulate God into a “yes,” the desire is likely rooted in something sinful.
- Our Savior never turns a deaf ear to our desire, no matter how hard we or others try to silence us (like people tried to silence Blind Bart).
- No matter the motivation of our desire—pure or sinful—we are safe to name it in the Lord’s presence because He’s the only one who can reveal if it’s gold or dross.
- No matter what we think our desire is, Jesus will help us hone the deeper desires by asking the same searching question, “What do you want Me to do for you?”
Now, imagine it’s just you and Jesus, and He asks you, “What do you want me to do for you?”
At the end of chapter one in Sacred Rhythms, the author asked us to imagine ourselves in the historical setting of the story of Blind Bartimaeus. Of course, I LOVED that—walking in a crowd of shouting, poor, sweaty Jewish travelers in Jericho.
Jesus was just ahead of me with His disciples, and Bartimaeus was seated at a curve in the road.
Like Blind Bart, I needed to get Jesus’ attention, so I simply screamed at the top of my lungs, “Jesusssssss!” Every sound stilled.
How did my Jesus response? He turned and met my gaze with piercing dark-brown eyes, wrinkles in the corners. He smiled slightly and said, “You know me. Ask it.”
Feeling warmth flash through me (not sure if it was a hot flash or the Spirit), I told him my deepest desire:
“I want to feel deeply again. Feel His presence, feel longing, feel love, feel sorrow, feel joy. I’ve turned off my emotions to deal with the constant pain (emotional, physical, and spiritual) of chronic illness, broken relationships, and too many goodbyes.”
How about you?
If you feel comfortable, share with us in the comments about the desire you voiced in the presence of your Savior. Mine was rooted in sin—repressed emotions have about them all manner of Satan’s deceptions—but the Lord and I will work through those together during this study…and over the course of a lifetime, I’m sure.
REMEMBER, the comment section is not intended to FIX each other’s problems but to share what the LORD is doing in us and to praise Him for that work.
Next Week’s Rhythm
Please come back next Friday to share your experience from Chapter 2—Solitude: Creating Space for God. For those of you who hate being alone, this will be a challenging subject, but press on, dear one, and remember—you won’t be alone.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8