Monday, January 25, 2016

31 Days - Desire

photo by Kayla Dietz

Don't ask me to make a decision. I can't do it. Seriously, I've been known to laugh as I point out that it takes me 20 minutes to make a decision in McDonald's – before they expanded their menu to include wraps, etc.! Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration... but only slight. And....

I have to admit that nearly every time my husband asks where I want to eat, my answer is the same: "I don't know."

What do I want to do? "I don't know."

If I could have one wish.... "I don't know."

What's my favorite.... "I don't know."

Over ten years ago I wrote:
Our small group is on marriage enrichment. Carl asked the question, "Yeah, but what if SHE doesn't know what she needs?" Afraid that the group would think he was being funny, I looked at our leader and told him, "Ummm... it's a real question."
And... I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

Do you see a pattern?

Until recently, I didn't really see the connection between any of those things. I thought I was just easy-going at best; indecisive at worst. I'm beginning to see things just a little differently.

I think I have attempted, as best as I know how, to kill desire. I don't recognize my own wants or needs because I've done my best to kill them. I'm not sure of all the reasons, but I at least know some of them. Ranging from my childhood sexual abuse, to friends turned bullies at school... desire for relationship was dangerous – it was a weakness which opened me up to pain. Other desires felt unattainable; out of reach; and therefore foolish. (To be accepted by my peers; skate like an olympic ice skater; sing like Amy Grant; write like John-Boy Walton....). And those desires I didn't label as foolish, I usually labeled as selfish or wrong.

Desire made me weak; foolish; or a jerk (or all of the above). And that... usually brought the sting of rejection. And so somewhere along the line I decided it was better to kill desire than to feel its pain. It just hurt too much.

So... my fear for Day Thirty:

I am afraid of desire.

It's a real fear... with some valid reasons behind it. History – my history – proves desire can be dangerous. Even scripture tells us "but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed." (James 1:14, NIV). So there's some truth in the fear: desire is dangerous. But what's the real Truth? Truth with a capital T?

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids - blind, lame, and paralyzed.
One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be healed?"
(John 5:2-6,ESV)

Evidently there was a belief that at times an angel would stir the water and the first person to then enter the pool would be healed. So as Jesus passes by this pool with a multitude of invalids waiting for such a stirring, he sees a man lying on his mat who has been paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus stops... looks at him... and asks... "Do you want to be healed?"

Imagine for a moment the indignation of that man... "Do I want to be healed? What kind of crazy question is that?" He may have even believed for a moment that he was being mocked. I'm sure it wasn't the first time. He was lying at the edge of a pool with no way to get in – even if the waves did come, he had no one to help him. I can hear the taunts he's suffered at times: "How do you think YOU'RE going to get in there, cripple? Huh? Get real – you're never going to make it. Why don't you just go home?" He's heard it all before... and in truth it echoes the same despair that he feels in his own heart. Noone is going to help him. Noone ever has. Noone ever will. Noone cares. He's alone. And he's been lying on that mat a long time. A. LONG. Time.

Honestly, how long can we hold onto desire that is continually denied? A year? Two years? Five? Ten? Twenty? How about... thirty-eight? Ummmm... yeah. That's tough. We all eventually move to a place where we begin to protect our heart – numbing it with resignation or even bitterness. We find ways to deaden the pain. Maybe it's biting cynicism as we lash out at others. Maybe it's sitting down with a full container of ice cream and a spoon. Or maybe it's disengaging and "vegging out" in front of a TV, or my favorite – a book. Whatever our method, we try to find a way to build calluses around our tender hearts... to kill the pain of unmet desire... to kill desire. And I think what I am discovering is that you can't just kill one desire. Where one is damaged, others will follow. Like dominoes, they fall until there are none left.

Proverbs 13:12 tells us that "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." I believe that's where this man is. Heartsick. Numb. He's an odd mix of hope and hopelessness. He's there, yet he really doesn't believe he has a chance. Not daring to dream, he's lost the heart-connection to his desire. He's just going through the motions. He has no answers to those who might mock him and ask "How are you ever going to get in there first, old man?"

And now someone stands above him asking, "Do you want to be healed?" What kind of question is that?! But when he looks up into Jesus' face, he doesn't see mockery. He sees compassion. He doesn't see rejection. He sees an invitation. And as he searches his heart for the answer, I think he feels something that was nearly dead begin to stir in his heart again. Desire. Yes, he wants to be healed. And his heart beats a little faster as he dares to dream. Maybe this man with eyes full of compassion would actually help him into the water....

But Jesus doesn't even look at the pool. He looks at the man. Actually, He looks in the man. He doesn't need the stirring of the water. He wants the stirring of his heart. He sees success in what's happening inside the man's heart, not in the pool.

Jesus wants to stir and awaken our desire!

We see a similar story in Matthew 20:29-32 where two blind men call out to Him. The crowd wants the men to be quiet, but Jesus stops and asks the two men, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

You can't tell me that Jesus didn't know what they wanted. So what was the purpose of His question?

I think He wanted to stir their hearts enough that they would give voice to their desire. Sometimes that's hard. If I give voice to a dream that seems out of my reach, I look foolish to the people around me. "Who am I to dream something so big?" So I keep quiet. Sometimes I'm afraid to give voice to it because it seems selfish. So I keep quiet. Sometimes I'm afraid to give it voice because denial (rejection) would hurt too much. So I keep quiet.

The crowd tells these two men the same thing I tell myself sometimes: "Be quiet!" But Jesus tells them (and me): "Tell me. Don't listen to the voices telling you to be quiet. I'm telling you to speak up! Dare to dream! Dare to ask. Dare... to give voice to desire."

Jesus wants us to have faith enough to admit to and give voice to our desire!

He's serious about that. We're even told in James 4:2 that we have not, because we do not ask.

So why is Jesus so interested in stirring our desire?

I don't think I'm the only one who has been hurt or disappointed by desire. And I don't think I'm the only one who has denied desire. But here's the thing: if I attempt to deny desire, I'm not just killing desire – I'm making an assault on hope. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "We can only hope for what we desire." Think about it: we can have desire without hope, but we can never have hope without desire. Hope can't exist without desire!

The New Testament is full of messages about hope. In fact, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that the three foundational things to the Christian life are faith, hope and love. And 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be prepared to give an explanation for where our hope comes from. Peter indicates that our hope is what draws people to us; to our story; to our Savior. He tells us to be ready with an explanation when we're asked about it. And yet... there aren't many people knocking down the doors to our churches asking us about our hope. Why? I think it's because we've dulled our desire. Our hope is mild and bland because our desire is bland.

People should see and want our hope. But hope cannot exist without desire.

But Jesus doesn't want to stir our desire just for the benefit of others:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
(John 10:10 )

The thief comes to steal our joy. He also wants to steal our desire. He works to turn the desires God places in our hearts – misdirecting them towards his own purposes. If he can't steal our desire, he will work to kill it. He is even crafty enough to get us to do his dirty work for him – convincing us to kill our own desire. And in stealing our joy and killing our desire, his main objective is met: he destroys any effect we might have for the Kingdom of God. Without joy and without desire we are no longer a threat.

Jesus sets Himself in complete opposition to satan's purposes, though. Jesus tells us that He came so that we could live life abundantly; life to the full. We don't live abundantly when we are vegging out in front of the TV, numbing our desire and deadening our hearts. We live abundantly when we dare to dream; when we dare to give voice and pursue it; when we dare to reach to be all that God created us to be. And we just can't do that without desire.

Jesus came so that we could live life to the fullest and we can't do that without desire.

Look again at Proverbs 13:12:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
(Proverbs 13:12)

What does it really mean to say that "desired fulfilled is a tree of life?"

Genesis 3:22-24 tells us that our access to the tree of life was blocked after the first sin (eating from the tree of knowledge). God took it seriously enough that He posted guards with flaming swords to protect us from it. (Yes, to protect us, but that's another thought for another post).

In Revelation 2:7 and 22:14 we're told that we'll regain access to the tree of life in heaven. But for now? In between Genesis and Revelation? For now we don't have access to the tree of life. So what does it mean that desire fulfilled is a tree of life?

The first part of Proverbs 13:12 tells us that hope deferred leaves us heartsick. It saps our strength and leaves us weakened... despondent. But second part of the verse tells us that desire fulfilled renews our strength and rejuvenates us – bringing life back to the despondent, deadened heart. It is as if we were in Eden – resurrected and plucking the fruit from the tree of life.

Desire fulfilled gives us a taste of Eden – what our lives were meant to be.

And that... that is the way Jesus intends us to live... with a taste of Eden... an abundant life... and a desire for more.

Oh, Father... I wish I weren't so afraid of desire... afraid of looking foolish; afraid of rejection; afraid of pain. I want to reach out for desire... and I know that's what You want for me... what You want from me.... and yet I pull back and put up walls to protect my heart. Oh, Daddy, I'm sorry. Sorry for joining with satan to kill something that You meant to be beautiful. It's scary to even think about, but I'm swallowing hard and asking You to give me the strength to break that agreement with evil; to instead reach out for the desire that You want to stir within me. Help me dare to dream... dare to desire... dare to live life... and dare to live it... abundantly!

Fear: I am afraid of desire.


  • Jesus wants to stir and awaken our desire! (John 5:2-6)
  • Jesus wants us to have faith enough to admit to and give voice to our desire! (Matthew 20:29-32; James 4:2)
  • People should see and want our hope. But hope cannot exist without desire. (1 Peter 3:15; C.S. Lewis)
  • Jesus came so that we could live life to the fullest and we can't do that without desire. (John 10:10)
  • Desire fulfilled gives us a taste of Eden – what our lives were meant to be. (Proverbs 13:12)


Note: This post is part of a 31-day writing challenge. Click here to see the rest of the posts on my 31 Days of Fear (and Truth).