Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Desire

"She's the candle burning in my room
I'm like the needle - needle and spoon
Over the counter with a shotgun
Pretty soon, everybody got one
And the fever when I'm beside her
Desire, desire . . . ."

--U2's "Desire"

"Coffee is strong at the Cafe Du Monde
Donuts are too hot to touch
Just like a fool, when those sweet goodies cool
I eat til I eat way too much
'cause Im livin on things that excite me
Be they pastry or lobster or love . . . ."

--Jimmy Buffett's "The Wino & I Know"

Awhile back my men's group went through the above-pictured book, "The Journey of Desire: Searching for the Life We Only Dreamed of" by John Eldredge. I didn't really like the book so I'm not saying you should read it. I did finish it, but I didn't love it. If you want a good book recommendation, please read my post from last week, Buy This Book.

Even though I'm not recommending Eldredge's book, it did get me thinking about desire, and I would like you to read this post.

What is desire? My dictionary says it's "a feeling that one would get pleasure or satisfaction by obtaining or possessing something."

If you read those song lyrics at the beginning of this post then you'll see that I am not alone in my belief that the objects of our desire aren't always things that are good for us. In the first song Bono alludes to the desire of a drug addict, melting drugs in a spoon over a candle in room somewhere, getting ready to deliver his desire into his arm via the needle. He also points out that some people desire something so much that they just grab a shotgun and go steal it. Then there's the Buffett lyrics. He's singing about things that anybody could fall victim to, like eating too many doughnuts. Eldredge never mentions these songs, it's just that I kept thinking about them during the entire first half of the book.

That's the biggest problem I had with "The Journey of Desire" book: Eldredge doesn't really tell his main point until very far into the book. In the first part of the book he pretty much says that desire is necessary for a meaningful life and then he points out that most Christians have decided not to reach for their desires because it opens us up to the pain of not obtaining them. There is lot I agree with. For example in chapter three he points out how our churches have actually (hopefully inadvertently) killed our desires and replaced desire with their more important goals of knowledge and performance. He writes:

"Jesus appeals to our desire because he came to speak to it. When we abandon desire, we no longer hear or understand what he is saying. But we have returned to the message of the synagogue; we are preaching the law. And desire is the enemy. After all, desire is the single major hindrance to the goal--getting us in line. We are told to kill desire and call it sanctification."

Oh, yes, sadly, I agree with this. Christianity is not about getting us in line, getting us to follow rules. It is not about knowledge or performance. Rather, it is about living life to its fullest. Yes, this important point is where I agree with Eldredge: We should never abandon desire to duty. One of his great lines is "Being offered tips and techniques for living a more dutiful life isn't even in the field of good news. We know in our hearts our dilemma cannot be: '"I sure wish I could be a more decent chap. What I really need is a program to improve my morals.' Now, Jesus seemed to think that what he was offering really and truly spoke to our dilemma."

However, I was so frustrated during the much of the book because, although Eldredge asserts that our dilemma is desire, he never defines desire. For too long he doesn't answer the troubling questions I had in my mind while reading: What kind of desire? What is the difference between godly desire and worldly desire? What if it's some married dude's desire to have an affair? What if I truly just desire to eat an entire pecan pie or whole carrot cake, surely that can't be good for me? So I kept singing the songs, "Just like a fool, when those sweet goodies cool, I eat till I eat way too much . . . . burnin' burnin' de-si-i-i-i-ire!"

So for almost the entire book I would find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with Eldredge. He writes some other things that I totally agree with such as: "This is the great lost truth of the Christian faith, that correction of Judaism made by Jesus and passed on to us: the goal of morality is not morality--it is ecstasy. You are intended for pleasure!" Then I would find myself saying, "This is far too easy."

In the end Eldredge does get to his point. He begins to get there in chapter 6. Then, thankfully comes chapter 7, "The Great Restoration" a chapter I would highly recommend. Here Eldredge links hope and desire. He states that you can only hope for what you truly desire and he begins to make it clear that when he was writing of "desire" for the previous 100 pages, he was using the term as a synonym for "godly desire." That he still doesn't appear to understand that many humans have evil desires that will derail their lives may be the fatal flaw of this book. Nevertheless, he is on to something when he starts telling the reader to desire God's promises.

In linking hope to desire Eldredge quotes 1 Peter 1:13: "Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." And in the end of chapter 6 he finally spells it out: "Desire cannot live without hope. Yet we can only hope for what we desire." So our desires are that what we truly hope for. Then, in chapter 7, he gives this great illustration:

"We have made a nothing of eternity. If I told you that your income would triple next year, and that European vacation you've wanted is jut around the corner, you'd be excited, hopeful. The future would look promising. It seems possible, desirable. But our ideas of heaven, while possible, aren't all that desirable. Whatever it is we think is coming in the next season of our existence, we don't don't think it is worth getting all that excited about. We make nothing of eternity by enlarging the significance of this life and by diminishing the reality of what the next life is all about. Nearly every Christian I have spoken with has some idea that eternity is an unending church service."

How sad that I would desire a European vacation, but not desire what is promised to me in the Bible. Yet, I can relate.

The ultimate point is that my deepest desire should be firmly placed upon the hope of God restoring everything. My desire should be for heaven which is NOT an unending church service. The author leans heavily on Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1 and the fact that God will give us a new Earth. The coming kingdom of God is where we must place our desire. Eldredge writes: "We do not know exactly how God will do it, but we do know this: the kingdom of God brings restoration. The only things destroyed are the things outside God's realm--sin, disease, death. But we who are God's children, the heavens and the earth he has made, will go on."

In the end Eldredge ties it all back to a battle for our hearts. On any given day, at any given moment really it boils down to this question: "Where is my heart?" Life is pointless without desires and my deepest desire must be for God. Deep in my heart of hearts, have I diminished the things of this world while elevating the things of heaven? Is my heart longing for God and his promises? Eldredge calls this desire for God the Sacred Romance. It's a romance between me and God. My true hope for a truly full life lies in this Sacred Romance and the promise of His coming kingdom.

What is this romance? The way I see it is there are these get moments in life, moments of total ecstasy. These are glimpses of our true creation. They are glimpses of Eden. Glimpses of the coming kingdom. There I will have an exotic intimacy with God. Although I feel like I have had a few spirit filled experiences like this, moments when everything feels just perfect, this is not something we can really ever grasp here in this life.

In the final chapter Eldredge really brings it home for me with the analogy of a kiss. He asks, "What is the truth of a kiss?" After all, "a kiss is two sets of mandibles pressing together for a certain duration of time." Boring! If you'd never had a real kiss, one that stirs your soul, would you want one based solely on those boring facts? Of course not. But, that is what church and religion has done to us in regard to God. We talk about "theology" and then reduce God, Jesus, the gospel, and heaven to boring facts. As the author says, it's all quite dead: "It's not that these insights aren't true; it's that they no longer speak."

When Eldredge writes of the Sacred Romance it excites me. Here he speaks my language when he says: "In fact, every story or movie or song or poem that has ever stirred your soul is telling you something you need to know about the Sacred Romance. Even nature is crying out to us of God's great heart and the drama that is unfolding. Sunrise and sunset tell the tale every day, remembering Eden's glory, prophesying Eden's return."

In his chapter "The Grand Affair" Eldredge brings sex into the sacramental realm when he writes, "For us creatures of the flesh, sexual intimacy is the closest parallel we have to real worship. Even the world knows this. Why else would sexual ecstasy become the number one rival to communion with God?"

Speak of kisses, poems, songs, movies, sunrises, and sunsets in terms of what awaits me upon Christ's return, speak of romance in relation to what awaits me after this life, talk about sex as worship and I truly begin to desire heaven.

We so badly want connection. Eldredge writes about an evening when he had his wife and best friends all share a piece of art that they loved, a song, or a poem, or perhaps a film clip, then he writes: "Art is a glimpse into our hearts, and you can learn so much about someone when he shares with you something that has stirred his soul." That is why I love art, it stirs the soul, it is a glimpse of Eden.

In a nutshell the Grand Affair is this good news: God has ultimately healed our curse of isolation!

So you see we have all these glimpses of Eden here on earth, but none of them can compare to the Sacred Romance/the Grand Affair with God and nothing can be more desirable than the hope of eternity that God has promised us with him. Therefore, I must not put my hope in anything that is in this life. I must reduce the noise and distractions of in this life and align my heart with God and hope only in the life that is coming after this one.

The author puts it this way in the last chapter:

"It is coming . . . . The life I prize is coming. The very thing that I am aching for now, missing now, seeking now in other things is exactly what's coming to me . . . As you raise your glass of wine, toast to the banquet to come; as you see anything beautiful you'd like to have, say to yourself, In a little while it shall be mine forever; as you make love, remember it is rehearsal for the Grand Affair."

In short, I am not in control. I cannot create my own little Eden here on earth, I cannot do it with people, things, stuff, I just cannot do it, period. BUT, God will. He has promised me something better than triple my income or a European vacation. Moreover, he makes good on his promises!

God will restore everything. That my friends is something to hope for. That my friends is the only thing worth desiring.

But, really, what about me? What do I truly desire? Time for honesty. The answer is "It depends."

On a bad day I desire a cigar, to be left alone, a new episode of LOST, or half a package of Nutter Butters. On an okay day I desire to meet my wife's needs, the best for my kids, or to run three miles. On a good day I desire to love everybody around me well, for mine and my friends' marriages to be thriving, for God to bless my church, and for the junior high ministry to be fantastic. But, on a great day, on a really great day, my only desire is to live like the promise of God's coming kingdom is enough. And, you know what? There are more and more great days!

Now as I'm thinking of desire I am singing a different U2 song. I'm singing lyrics from "Walk On" as follows:

"You're packing a suitcase for a place
none of us has been
A place that has to be believed
to be seen."

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4 Comments:

Blogger Sharon G said...

Thank you for sharing the INSIDE of your heart and soul!

9:16 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh my goodness. I was crying by the end of this. My desires have not been godly desires lately. I long to get back into that sacred romance and great affair with God.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Mike T said...

Dude - That was really good! A great reminder of what I really need to desire ... of what I really need to be hoping for every day. The next life with God will be more exciting and fulfilling than most of the good stuff I've experienced in this one. Thank you for sharing your heart.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Truth said...

Thanks for this, Doah. I'm not a big Eldredge fan - in fact, you should probably read this blog post - http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2008/06/grow-up-be-man.html - that really rips on his Wild at Heart book.

Anyway, with that said, I appreciate that you tried to be discerning when reading this latest drivel, uh - I mean, book. (Shoot, I let my opinion show again.) As often happens, even a guy who's really wrong can sometimes be really right. He was here, admittedly.

On the topic of our desire for heaven - the life we prize - may I recommend "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn. Absolutely amazing book... solid without being stodgy, and one that gives me great hope about our eternal home. :)

3:46 PM  

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