Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Desirous



Somebody gave me the book Sacred Rhythms. I love it. Barton writes with an easy style that draws me in.

She opens with a whole section on desire, and I could not help remembering at least three other books I've read recently that also broach this subject. Each book pinpoints desire as a starting place for Christian and creative growth.

Says Barton, "Opening up our desire in God's presence...gives God a chance to help us sort it all out....It enables us to rise up from our place by the side of the road so that we can actually get on the path to spiritual transformation and follow Christ." (p.26-27)

I want to believe this. I like the idea that maybe something in me knows where I need to go, at the "longing" level— whether it be in my spiritual life or my writing life or even my family life. But I am not sure. I'm also intrigued by the whole emphasis on desire. I suspect that Barton and other authors are touching a cultural point of need (or desire!).

What do you think this is about? Is it important to pay attention to our longings and desires? Lend me your thougths, for I desire to know.

Painting by Charity Singleton. Used with permission.


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32 Comments:

Blogger Andrea said...

I think desire is important and God-given. There is heart-desire and selfish-desire. How to figure them out is another thing. I like to think of putting my desire at His feet and having Him direct my ways according to that desire:

The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
~Proverbs 16:9

8:18 AM  
Blogger andre said...

Desires are inevitable so I guess we ought to pay attention to them. Some come from God, others from a selfish heart. Sorting it all out is a big issue for christians. For instance, I've found many christians struggle with personal ambition - is it good or bad?

There's an honesty to what Barton is suggesting - to bring our heart's desires and ambitions before God.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

That is a really powerful painting.

I love the part about God sorting it out for us when we open up our desire in God's presence. It reminds me about praying for what we want, even though God knows what he is going to do anyway, so both are important (or one and the same--presenting our desires to God in prayer)

And tagging onto what Andrea said, I think that in truly entrusting them to God, He does help us sort out our heart-desire from our selfish desire.

12:29 PM  
Blogger AIMEE said...

john eldredge's book "journey of desire" really opened up that word desire for me...it moves us away from duty/the law and it allows us to do as the Spirit leads...this has allowed me to focus more intently on His voice/how He's made me instead of just doing what I think I "should" do or what others want me to do...I think the Holy Spirit can lead us through desire

3:13 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Psalm 37:4 is the first thing to come to mind. "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

3:41 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Andrea... yes, it seems that our "wants" somehow steer us toward action. Do you think it's possible to have a good desire that results in bad action or vice versa?

Andre... what do you think about personal ambition? Is it possible to have it and do good through it?

Jennifer... I guess I don't trust that my desires are ever really rooted in "heart-desire" (which it seems we are interpreting as good desires)... in other words, I can't ever seem to escape poor motive, even in my most innocent wants.

Aimee... you bring up an interesting point that I think it's good to think through... can we trust our desires outside of the law and duty? Is it really possible to just follow the Spirit, or the "mood"? In fact, I've been disturbed by some of what has come out of the J.E. movement, though I know he is a good writer and a dynamic speaker.

Craver... so I guess the question becomes, what does it mean to delight oneself in the Lord... and, following on that, what desires of the heart are being talked about here?

4:28 PM  
Blogger Eve said...

Thanks, Craver-that's just what needed to be reminded of.

David seemed to know what it was to delight in the Lord (as the deer pants for the water...)

Job also says, "...I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.-Job 23:12).

We need to live to glorify Him, not ourselves. To seek Him and His pleasure, not our own ends and pleasures.

I'm starting off by praying that He gives me a greater desire to do this.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Nice painting, Charity!

L.L., Ha, ha. Can't tell you. We had a chapel speaker at RBC Ministries recently who said something life desire drives Christians more than faith. I guess the question here, if that is true is- Shouldn't faith move us to desire? In all kinds of ways as we're in Scripture and prayer and living through the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, and the everything else of life.

If we don't have desire than we're sunk. But sometimes that desire is more like a groping, maybe even in the dark or faint light. But God wants us to be moved with passion and desire in our lives, regularly, though we must do so as those seeking to live in Christ and as part of his Body, I think.

Thanks again, for another good, stimulating post. Good to think on.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Christianne said...

Good thoughts all around here. In response to selfish versus godly desire, I think even our selfish desires ultimately point us to deeper desires for godly things. For instance, the issue with personal ambition. Usually that is driven by a desire to be seen, to be known, to be thought well of. The desire to be seen and known is true and beautiful -- it's like the way God speaks of knowing us in Psalm 139, and it's the way the body of Christ should seek to see and know one another, and even those outside the body of Christ. So, the desire for these things is really implanted by God and found, ultimately, in God and the things He provides.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

The pastor who did the "altar call" the day I believed, phrased it this way, "Will you make Jesus the number-one motivator in your life."

Of course, it was really God who initiated the change, but I still like the "number-one motivator" part of it. Reflecting Andrea's comment, this desire was "God-given."

Since the beginning of the Christian experience, we cultivate and grow this thing so that the longing that He placed in us on that day ripens and bears good fruit.

Like King David, I know that I too will do bad things, but I pray that the Lord gives me the "want-to," and that He truly and always is the number-one motivator in my life.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

"do you think it's possible to have a good desire that results in bad action or vice versa?"

Yes, defintely. When we are not seeking the Lord on it, or when we are convinced our way is right. What we think is good, could actually get in the way of what is "right" in the Lord's eyes. The only way to define a good desire is by holding it up to the Light of His truth, the Word.

7:17 PM  
Blogger A Musing Mom said...

Like Craver, the first thought that came to my mind in response to what you said was that verse. But I always wonder if in truly delighting ourselves in the LORD, perhaps our selfish desires are transformed so that then what God wishes to give us, we desire. I also sometimes wonder if rather than the word "give" there meaning "grant" as we usually take it, if it doesn't mean God will place desires in our heart that are pure.

Also like Craver, I think it's important to submit our "desires" to God and ask if they're from Him as a way of Him taking us in the direction He desires us to go.

7:49 PM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

i think there are certain desires we KNOW God wants us to have....for Him, for His word, to pray. and sometimes i feel guilty when i don't... in a lot of these areas i still feel it as a duty, something i do out of obedience but not because it's a deep desire or longing. i pray a lot for God to make these desires of my heart...

but also there are personal desires... along giftings and dreams. i think christians should be some of the MOST creative and inspired people out there...the biggest dreamers, as we have the inspiration and heart of the ultimate Creative Being...and i do believe he plants dreams and desires in our hearts and is happy when we are able to fulfill them, just as a parent would be seeing their child fulfill their dreams......

probably the key is the motive....why we want to fulfill these desires and dreams... and we know HE is the only one who knows the real motives of our hearts.....

i think maybe he gives us an E for effort even if we fail if our motives and heart were sincere. :)

8:59 PM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

I think that God puts a desire in our heart to know Him better. Especially He puts a desire in people's heart that don't know Him yet. I don't know if that makes any sense...

Blessings to you and yours.

9:09 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Eve... hey thanks for taking my side in the whole shaving cream debacle over on Good Word. And thanks for your good words here too.

Ted... now there's an interesting thought from that speaker... about desire driving us more than faith. I guess that's what I worry about with the whole desire thing. It seems to me that part of the Christian life IS about duty and law (though not slavishly), rather than about "what I want" in any given circumstance.

Christianne... I see that, about selfish desires maybe being a cover for true desires to be in God. Now, here's a thought (question?)... was Satan's desire to "be like God" a good desire in disguise as a bad one?

Craver... and I'm thinking that when Jesus is the number one motivator, this might sideline my desires quite a lot.

Andrea... you bring to mind the Abraham and Sarah story. They wanted the good promise of God, as they should, but then they went about trying to make it happen in their own way and time. Bad actions. And I like the idea of holding our desires up to God's light and truth. I know a few people who have gone with "the Spirit's leading," against what seemed so clearly to be otherwise in Scripture.

A Musing... rather like Jesus in Gethsemane... submitting his desires to God, then taking the hard road for a high end.

Blue... what do you desire, along with all those spiritual things you know you should?

Eph... yes, I believe He tries to. But I suppose we also have the power to deny that desire and channel it towards other things.

9:55 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

Ah, desire. Fascinating topic, interesting discussion so far!

I think having desires is one of the ways in which we reflect the image of God. I know desire can move us to action, whether we're following the desires of our own flesh (leading to sin) or of the Spirit (leading to right, godly action). Easy to write, but perhaps not so black & white in real life, I know. I think of the conflict Paul describes in Roman 7: "For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. ... When I want to good, evil is right there with me."

It's an interesting & complex dichotomy since Spirit & flesh are inseparable, but at war with each other (Gal 5:16-18).

Hmm.

This means too, I think, that we will be times when we have trouble distinguishing between the two (desires of the Spirit vs. the flesh) on our own; I like what Barton says about "opening up our desire in God's presence": testing it against Scripture (I think of the fruits of the spirit) and ultimately giving to Him to do with what He will. I'm not entirely sure what this would look like specifically, but I think the more our spirits move toward Him, finding our delight in Him, the more our desires will echo His own.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Yes, your point is well taken. If my desires are wrong then I have to keep working on my faith (and repentance). And in the process God can sanctify those very desires to make them holy (that sounds confusing; God's work is interesting in the complexities and conundrums of life). Of course certain desires have to be trashed altogether. The love of God and for God and others must come to be for us the heartbeat more and more of our desire.

Something like that. And of course as in the comments, all according to God's revealed will in Scripture.

3:00 AM  
Blogger andre said...

LL,

You're the absolute guru at stimulating ongoing conversation! You asked - "what do you think about personal ambition? Is it possible to have it and do good through it?"

I think it's a major struggle with many Christians, in particular those with type A personalities. I'm a recovering type A ;-) I know I struggled with it in a significant way when I was younger.

I've spoken to a number of young Christian men and they've mentioned the struggle between pursuing success "in the world" and not succumbing to selfish ambition.

I think many desires and dreams are good and we need to view them as gifts from God...to be properly stewarded for his glory. It begins with having a big view of God and his redemptive work on the earth. But as we pursue our dreams and ambitions, we need to guard our hearts as well.

There's much more I could say but I actually did a 3 part series on dreams and ambitions on my blog a few months ago. I hate to do this because it sounds like I'm trolling for traffic but if anyone's interested, here's a link to the first post entitled "Stewarding Your Ambition"

http://everysquareinch.blogspot.com/2006/10/stewarding-our-ambition.html

11:10 AM  
Blogger Betsy Lin said...

I think we can only "trust" God with out desires if we believe that He is personal and that he really cares.
Sometimes what we really desire comes through painful happenings.
I think desire is really just our longing for freedom- in our desire we can dream- we can be anything, have anything, go anywhere...but it ends the moment the song plays "you cant always get what you want"
There is nothing more heartbreaking then a broken dream, or a desire unquenched.....

11:39 AM  
Blogger Betsy Lin said...

with OUR desires....not without...

11:44 AM  
Blogger Eve said...

LL,
We girls have to stick together-peanut butter or no *grin*

12:04 PM  
Blogger Lloyd Irving Bradbury said...

good Idea from DOWNUNDER
At 7.30pm on 31 March 2007, we are inviting Sydneysiders - businesses and individuals - to turn off their lights for just one hour, Earth Hour, as a sign of their commitment to reduce global warming.

http://earthhour.smh.com.au/

9:07 PM  
Blogger Charity Singleton said...

In talking about our unmet desires, Larry Crabb once commented that most Christians really act more like practicing Buddhists. When they pray for something and don't get it, they act like they never wanted it anyway.

Crabb's point was the humans are born with myriad desires, all of which can be fulfilled only when we are restored to God in heaven. He says every time we have a longing on earth, it is to remind us of our true place in heaven.

With this in mind, I think even our negative desires have an element of good in them -- they are just misdirected. We are looking for satisfaction in all the wrong places.

"And not ony this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of the body." (Romans 8:23)

9:40 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Kirsten... this is an interesting thought... that having desires reflects the image of God. In what way do you see God as a god of desire?

Ted... I wonder if it's about changing our desires so much as learning from them... in other words, if I desire what seems evil, can I learn something important from that? Example: when my kids were little, I used to sometimes leave them with my in-laws. "I'll be back in hour!" I'd say. But then I'd go out for an hour and a half. Ouch. The desire to stay out seemed evil because it kept me from my word... then one day my sister said, "Why do you do it? What do you think you really want?" The sin of the unkept word was still sin, but I also realized that I was in need of solitude, and that this was in fact a good desire.

Andre... I like the "guard our hearts" idea, for our hearts easily carry us away where we can get hurt and hurt others. Thanks for the link too. I read through it and found it a helpful contribution to the discussion.

Betsy Lin... funny you should say that. One of Barton's thoughts is exactly that... we can only give our desires over if we trust in a personal, caring God. So maybe the first step in dealing with desires is to kindle that love affair with the Great I Am.

Eve... I suppose peanut butter is good for sticking a lot of things together (including girls!)

Lloyd... oh, thanks for the reminder!

Charity... I was waiting for someone to bring up the Buddhist question. For it brings forth the issue of whether in fact we should strive to be without desire. Can anyone maybe venture to argue what might be attractive about this? (Being without desire.)

9:56 AM  
Blogger Christianne said...

Charity, I just finished reading a book by Larry Crabb in which he mentions this exact same thing! It's a book called "Shattered Dreams" -- what to do when our desires don't pan out. And, you said much more articulately and elegantly what I was trying to say in my own comment -- that desires are good and "bad desires" are just misdirected good ones.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Christianne said...

One other thought to add to this mix is that God seems to meet people at their point of desire -- and usually earthly ones -- repeatedly in the Bible. He met the woman at the well when she was thirsty. He asked the blind man at the pool of Bethesda if he wanted to be made well. He told Abraham that many nations would be blessed out of his seed, when Abraham wanted a son but was well past child-bearing years. He gave Israel manna in the wilderness to satisfy their hunger. All of these were done to ultimately reveal more of Himself, but He came down to their level in order to do it. He met them at their desires in order to lead them further up and into more of Himself.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Good point. Beneath desires is something legitimate even though there may be sin in the desire we have. Good thought and true.

I think this is related to God sanctifying our desires. Not necessarily taking it away, but providing the God-given sense or need that underlies or is in it.

7:01 PM  
Blogger bluemountainmama said...

l.l.- i answered your question, in part, on a post i just put up....thanks for the inspiration!

7:07 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Christianne... I like all those examples from biblical history. The desires we see in them are catalysts that made them ready for the invitation,

"Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me... and delight yourselves in rich food." (Is 55:1-2)

Ted... yes, I do so long, more and more, to be in touch with the true spiritual desire that underlies my surface wants.

Blue... AWESOME! I read about your musical foray, a desire of your heart, and I was touched very deeply by your courage. I hope to hear more in the future.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Rachel Starr Thomson said...

Thanks for your comment on my "Words" post.

Great discussion you have going here. Sometimes I think we over-analyze desire. Ultimately it's something God has given us, and like all of the "inner" gifts God gives, it's meant to be tempered by faith and wisdom. I like the KJV's use of the word "temperance" rather than self-control... it's more a balance word.

For example, we all desire food. That's not bad. We're meant to desire it, and to be filled with it, and thank God for it. Mankind does a lot of GOOD things while seeking to fulfill that desire--farming and providing and learning skills that are good for all. But if the desire is untempered, we can end up with selfishness and gluttony.

Ultimately desires are meant to be brought into the service of God, just like everything else in life. Not ignored, not demonized, not idolized--just "yielded unto God, as those that are alive from the dead."

Rachel
Little Dozen Press

3:33 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

hi there-I left you a little "Thinking Blogger Award" at my site--come see!!

4:23 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Andrea... thanks! What an honor... I know I think about a lot of things, but to know that actually means something to somebody is precious indeed.

Rachel... love how you say this. It's an expressive summation of all we've been discussing here (you weren't a teacher in a former professional life, were you? :)

5:25 PM  

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