As you may or may not have noticed, I’m taking a page from my wife’s blog with the title of this post. I was prompted to write about it by a running email conversation with my dad over something in another recent post of mine. I recalled a conversation with my best friend Nate from many years ago, in which he said, “I have such a hard time wanting anything . . . mostly because we were always taught that the wanting itself was a problem . . . if we truly want anything, it must be bad for us to have.”
Understandably, my father wondered who, in this particular instance, had done the teaching. It was understandable because this was certainly something I never heard from him.
I’ve talked a lot on these pages about choices . . . and about the importance of taking responsibility for our choices, and indeed, responsibility for making them in the first place.
The problem with the choices that led me to this particular place – the place of truly believing that desires were evil things – was that I made those choices when I was very young, and did not truly understand the ramifications of those choices.
I never consciously said to myself, “I think that from now on I’m going to decide to believe that desires are bad.”
I did, however, sit through years of teaching in churches and para-church organizations that imparted to me gems of wisdom likeï¿½. . .
- being a Christian means being hated by the world
- being a Christian means sacrificing
- being a Christian entails suffering
- being a Christian means forgoing our own desires in favor of God’s
Pretty standard fare for the sort of fundamentalist Christianity I grew up under, right?
Think about it though . . . what happens if you couple being hated by “the world” with an unhealthy dependence on the approval of your fellow churchgoers who are supposed to help “keep you accountable”?
You end up psychologically predisposed to crave the approval of those around you, and unless you end up spending your life in a monastery, those around you are predominantly the same ones your church calls “the world.”
So much for a desire to be liked by . . . just about anyone at all, really.
How about the sacrificing and suffering? If you’re told your whole life that being godly means hardship, and that if things aren’t difficult for you then God must be “putting you on a shelf” because of some sin in your life that is preventing Him from using you effectively . . . what’s going to happen to any desire for success or fulfillment in life? Either you’re going to kill it because it’s “sinful,” or you’re going to live with guilt your whole life.
And how about subordinating our desires to God’s? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it taught that when scripture promises that God will “give you the desires of your heart” it means that he will literally reach into your heart and tell you what to desire. Instead of being a wonderful promise of His easy yoke and light burden, it becomes another form of manipulation and control, and kills any reason to desire . . . well . . . anything. After all, if you’re following God, then He’ll tell you what to desire, and if you’re not, well, you shouldn’t be wanting that anyway . . . and after all, since you’re not living in constant suffering and misery, you must not be following Him anyway.
Welcome to the teachings I absorbed throughout my childhood and teenage years.
And I made a choice . . . a choice to buy into them wholeheartedly.
It didn’t seem like much of a choice at the time, really. After all, my Pastor and other seemingly unassailable “spiritual authorities” were speaking as the mouthpieces of God, right? How could a young teenage boy look up at them and say “that doesn’t make sense!”
Wouldn’t that have been an act of most grievous pride . . . tantamount to spitting in God’s face? They sure seemed to think so . . . and oddly enough, some of them still do.
It just so happens that I’m an adult now, and can understand much more how . . . human . . . we humans really are, even the ones who wear special clothes or stand behind pulpits.
Nevertheless, I am still responsible for those choices. But how do we deal with the choices we made years and years ago, when we were too immature to recognize them as choices at all?
I think the first step is to do just that. Identify your choices . . . own them . . . acknowledge that “I made a decision, be it recently or many years past,ï¿½to agree with this.”
Then make another decision . . . to continue believing what you believe . . . or not.
For me . . . when it comes to living from a place of desire, or killing off my desires and hoping against hope that God comes and whispers Hisï¿½desiresï¿½into my ear someday, so I know what I’m “supposed” to want (which, oddly enough, has yet to ever happen) . . . I’ll take a life of desire.