Many times over the years, I have used this blog to ‘download’ my thoughts after a Sunday sermon. After nodding and smiling and quick exchanges of pleasantries, Scott and I left church on Sunday, walked to our car, commented on the great weather outside, got into the car and drove away.
“Well, THAT was a tough sermon”, was all I could capsulize at the immediate moment.
“He did a great job, but yeah, after awhile I wanted to yell, ‘Okay, OKAY, I GET it‘ “, Scott remarked.
You know the sermon. The one that is graciously presented but contains a message that is very close to home for the majority of the congregation. THAT was our sermon on Sunday.
Our pastor, Tim Keel, has begun a new sermon series on sexuality. So you’d think that would be a fun series, right?! On Sunday, he discussed desire. There were many themes I have heard or thought through before, but there were angles that I needed to hear again.
Irony: Our desires are innate and unchangeable and yet how many billions of dollars are spent on changing and manipulating our desires?
Desire is always stronger than satisfaction. That phrase is something I need tatooed on my forehead. I am a dreamer. A planner. A strategizer. A future-planning addict. As a result, I always (always) have a strong line of desire going through my head at all times. Whether it’s blog planning, art projects, family event planning…BIG ideas. I have a strong desire to see things done to the absolute best and in the most unique way possible. A good friend of mine, Monica, and I have often discussed the downfalls of living with high expectations. That can be another way of saying ‘desire’. I desire for this event to turn out at THIS level. My satisfaction with it, however, will always fall just short of that. Desire is always stronger than satisfaction.
A simple phrase that, if I would embrace, could save me a great deal of mental exhaustion.
However, when we cannot satisfy our desire (which we’ve now learned we cannot), we compulsively try harder at it. If food cannot satisfy our desire, we compulsively eat more. When any form of entertainment cannot satisfy our desire, we watch more tv, go to more movies, play more video games. We don’t feel the sense of complete satisfaction, so we do.it.more. (Greta uncomfortably shifts in her pew.)
We are fixated on earthly things thus that desire then becomes our shame.
How many times have you been in that vicious cycle?! I want. I shouldn’t. But I do. Now I feel badly about it. (rinse. repeat.) When we give our desires permission to control us, we are not in control of them. We have to develop ways in which to train them. This is where our spiritual lives step in. Name the desire. Expose it. Identify it. Then identify a strategy to re-train it. This can be your form of worship. As a response to any desire (sexuality, food, gluttony, greed, shopping, wanting), we initially feel a need inside us (“I want…”) and then we go and get it to satisfy the need. The secret, however, is to develop a pause between the restlessness and the response. We have messianic expectations – feeling as if we can quench the desire by doing ‘a’ or ‘b’. And yet when we choose to find the root cause of the “I want…” we can better know what it is we need to turn over to God. A good example for me is that when I am under a big deadline for work…the date is approaching…I’m feeling the pressure of it, I tend to start a c.o.m.p.l.e.t.e.l.y new and bigger project to avoid the restlessness I feel about the initial project’s deadline. I’m not solving the pressure of the uproaching deadline, I’m merely masking the restlessness with the adrenaline and excitement of the second project.
Desire does not equal Wrong. Sin is a legitimate desire being met in an illegitimate way. Starting a new project is not a sin. What’s wrong is that I am allowing my desire (to avoid the deadline) to control me instead of taking control of it myself. Or more aptly, going to God and simply saying, “I’m overwhelmed. I’m in over my head. Help me figure out the best plan to work my way out of this feeling of ‘not enough’ and move into a place where I am confidently completing the project at hand.” I need to learn to stay present long enough in the pain until I find out the source of the discomfort. Our restlessness gives us a great source of energy, but it also keeps us from a peaceful heart and mind. This is where the Pause is of such great importance. I feel restless. Therefore, let me stay here for awhile to figure out where that restlessness is coming from. THEN I can take steps to master the real problem – not mask its pain with avoidance and distraction.
The reality is, we all are naturally geared to live out all of our desires at max level. Society = the restraint of our desires to live in a civil society. We have all learned to wrangle our extreme desires out of deference to other people. How do we learn to control those excess desires? That’s where spirituality sets in. It helps us to shape and discipline and train our innate desires – and if not, we allow them to rule our lives.
As Christians, we are living in a place that is naturally going to cause restlessness. We are in the interim place between the Resurrection and the Return. Our citizenship is in heaven. How many times have I heard that truth in my life?!?! But never have I so strongly identified with it! Scott and I are living between our parents’ homes when we are in Kansas City, and living out of hotels 2-3 weeks a month when we are traveling for work. All of our stuff (the things I have carefully collected over the years out of love) are boxed away in storage units. We do not have a place called home. We are living in the interim, and it is frustrating and often times sad that we do not have a place that we can fully exhale, put our feet up and feel as if ‘We’re home.’ On a much broader scale, Christians are living in that same temporal home. We are nomads, walking this earth, but awaiting our future home of permanence in Heaven with our Creator. That tension will never be fulfilled, this side of heaven.
What legitimate desire do you have that is being illegitimately realized? Is it causing stress? Restlessness? Shame? These are the questions I have been living with these past few days. I am learning to develop the Pause. Finding the root of the restlessness will ultimately bring me Peace.
Thank you, Tim, for so beautifully stomping across my toes on Sunday morning…