This weekend we explored the power of hope and desire in our lives. Whether for good or for evil, desire is what drives everything we do.
- Physical desire - food, shelter, rest, touch
- Emotional desire - peace, happiness, contentment, tranquility
- Relational desire - friendship, love, sex
- Social desire - approval, belonging, recognition, success
- Vocational desire - a sense of accomplishment, achievement, value in our work
- Spiritual desire - meaning, purpose, connection
These desires set the course of our lives; our career choices, financial decisions, who we marry, where we live, how we relate to others and how we relate to God. We are are shaped by our desires. We become what we desire. We are conformed to our desires.
"Do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct." 1 Peter 1:14-15
The problem, Peter says, is that most of our desires are “perishable” and “empty” (v. 18). The hard truth about life on this planet is that desire is always stronger than satisfaction. As human beings we are forever restless, dissatisfied, frustrated, and aching. There is a discontent in all things. What we do with that discontent is our spirituality.
“Here in this life all symphonies remain unfinished" - Karl Rahner
Sometimes this discontent hits us as pain - dissatisfaction, frustration, cynicism, or anger. However, this same discontent can also be experienced as a deep energy. Our dissatisfaction with life in this world, can actually redirect us toward another. Our unfulfilled desire can be a debilitating pain or an invigorating hope.
This is why Peter says, “Set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:13). Christian hope is not just pie in the sky, it is a vision of a new creation. A world rid of all its brokenness, hatred, death and disease. This hope is a powerful pull toward love, beauty, creativity, and a future beyond our limited present.
Spirituality is what we do with our hope and desire.
Discipleship, then, is about learning to be attentive to, and intentional about what you desire. It is more a matter of hungering and thirsting, than of knowing and believing. Jesus’s command to follow him is a command to re-align our desire with his.
- To want what God wants
- To desire what God desires
- To hunger and thirst after his righteousness
- To crave a world where he is all in all
This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt. 5:6); and “seek first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Mt. 6:33).
- It’s not just that I “know” enough things about God
- Its not even that I “believe” the right things about God
- Its that I align my “desire” completely around God
Peter says, “Instead of living a vain and empty life, we should be holy.” (v. 16). Holiness is not so much about following rules or regulations, it is about reorienting our desires.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
We are driven by our hope. Hope is like gravity, it has an alluring power. Advertisers know how to capitalize on this. Most of the of the ads we see aren’t selling products, but hope. A vision of “the good life”. A glimpse of what your life would look like if all your desires were fulfilled.
- People in bikini’s dancing endlessly on a beach.
- Celebrities driving luxury cars through mystical cities and countrysides
- Mom’s with perfect makeup, perfect clothes, perfect houses and perfect children
- Politicians wearing hard hats in busy factories filled with thousands of employees whose jobs he has saved.
- Men taking Viagra or Cialis and suddenly able to fix classic cars, sail out into the horizon, and somehow carry bathtubs up to the top of mountains while completely naked.
But Jesus came to give us a new vision of the "good life." A new hope founded not on consumption but generosity; not on materialism but eternal reward; not on perishable things but with “the precious blood of Christ” (v. 19).
The crucial question we must ask ourselves is what is my vision of “the good life”? Where are my desires aimed and directed? What am I doing with my discontent?
“Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment. There is a quality of sadness that pervades all the moments of our lives. It seems that there is no such thing as a clear-cut pure joy, but that even in the most happy moments of our existence we sense a tinge of sadness. In every satisfaction, there is an awareness of limitations. In every success, there is the fear of jealousy. Behind every smile, there is a tear. In every embrace, there is loneliness. In every friendship, distance. And in all forms of light, there is the knowledge of surrounding darkness… But this intimate experience in which every bit of life is touched by a bit of death can point us beyond the limits of our existence. It can do so by making us look forward in expectation to the day when our hearts will be filled with perfect joy, a joy that no one shall take away from us.” ― Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life