Desires

Deconstructing the Impossible Dream

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What if somewhere in the middle of our lives, for those of us who are genuinely asking that God would have His way, there takes place a series of events that leaves us empty, wounded & disoriented? What if, after bringing those events before The LORD we find out that it was He who sanctioned those happenings? What if we discovered that in those areas where we once felt competent, where we moved through life operating “out of our giftings,” God allowed those strengths to diminish, so that we could no longer rely upon them? What if God purposefully and aggressively deconstructed the under-girding we’d come to count on… so that when it seemed as if we should be “coasting” in certain veins of life, we found ourselves  vulnerable, as if we were back in time cutting our first teeth!? These are questions I have been asking God about the last little while. And I have been hearing His voice in response to those questions.

I believe God wants very much to reveal His heart to me and grow me up, enlightening me to truths that will actually change the way I live life. I find it fascinating the order in which He reveals what He does. It does not follow a line of reasoning that makes sense to me. I think that’s on purpose because it means I can’t get ahead of His movements or even anticipate where He might be going next. All that to say, I believe it keeps me “in the moment” and that is altogether important.

I suppose I had an idea that mid-life would afford a kind of settling in terms of processes of thinking, or ways of interpreting life; that there would be some general sense of ease in these years. What I have found instead is a dismantling of much of that thinking and interpreting. I am confident while equally sobered, that God is doing precisely what is necessary so I can see certain things I will be unable to see unless He blows up a few of the buildings I’ve built. They are blocking an essential view.

I realize most of this language is nebulous, but maybe as you read the next few paragraphs, you will find some place in you that resonates.

If God literally spoke to me, here’s the essence of what I believe He might say… 

Anne, you have been asking me to have my way in you. I have heard you. I am glad for your question and your commitment to keep asking it. I am now and mean to continue to honor your request, because I very much want for you to experience what I have always intended for you to experience in the life I’ve given you, which began for you here in the confines of time, but is eternal. 

Here’s the bottom line, which I know you are already beginning to comprehend. You have constructed a life that I have been included in since you were 5 years old. However, for many different reasons, that life has been and largely remains centered upon you and the pursuit of your general well-being. 

You believe I am who I say I am. That’s good, but you have been under the delusion that I can be used as a means to gain that happiness. I do not participate in those type of arrangements. I need you to come to terms with the critical nature of your “you-centered” existence. It is deeper than you can imagine and has implications which I am gently revealing to you. And so, I am taking you on a journey to the center of yourself. When we get there, you will have the opportunity to place me on the throne of your heart…. that deepest place within you. You will first have to de-throne yourself. 

You know that I love you, that I have only good intentions and thoughts toward you. You know that this journey is essential and that as we progress upon it, you will  be able to love me more and more, not for your well-being, but for my glory. And you will be able to love people with no selfish agenda. You will do it because you will understand that loving people is also about me, not about what they might give you in return for your love. You will move toward selflessness and I will become CENTRAL. As this transformation takes place, you will find your deepest longings being met, but it will look NOTHING like what you have imagined. We are on a journey to deconstruct your impossible dreams. Until you let them go, I have no space within you to build what will truly satisfy and what will transfer when it’s time for you to come home.

Hold very loosely to the things of this world, to the content of your present existence. You are free to give fully to everyone I lead you to. They need my love and I am inviting you to deliver it to them. Your concern, as you make that delivery, is that you are obeying my command, thereby proving your love for me even as you present me to them. This is a high and precious calling and the primary way I choose to make myself known to dying souls; the primary way I choose to express love to my children. I showed you what that looks like when I walked the earth.

Your core purpose is to glorify me by loving me and loving people. I am the sole source of life, so understand how critical it is that you point people to me by loving them. Life is about loving me and about loving people.

Trust me, Anne. I know what I’m doing. Let the construct of your self-made world fall. Let me sweep it away and build what cannot be undone.

In this is love,
not that we loved God,
but that He loved us…”
~ 1 John 4:10 ~

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Desires – Really Big Ones & the Rest

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This is a “mid-life” conversation. Folks in their twilight years are past these conversations for the most part, either resigned or resolved to “real life.” Folks younger are still grappling with issues that are typically on a lower plane of importance, though they wouldn’t consider them so. But I am having conversations almost every day with people in their 40’s and 50’s who, if they have a truly BIG unrealized desire, are not sure what in the world to do with the depth of it. “Shouldn’t the intensity have waned by now? Is it cruel (in which case I think I might need to blame someone, probably God) that I still feel so strongly? If my head knows better about it, why won’t my heart feel better about it? Should I stop asking God about it? Should I be asking differently?”

“Now hope that is seen
is not hope.
For who hopes
for what he sees?
But if we hope
for what we do not see,
we wait for it with patience.”

A few things keep laying claim to the fore of my mind… 

  • I live in a day and age and in a nation where greed rules as opportunity wanes, perhaps on a deeper level than anytime in history. I am trained and encouraged to consume, to desire, to long for what will satisfy my egocentricity. I am even introduced to God as a possible means to gain what I desire.
  • I live in a very broken world with very broken people. I am broken. But my dreams and desires often don’t take that in to account.
  • The world is not as God intended for it to be, not yet redeemed. I have a tenacious adversary that knows my weaknesses, AND there is a constant internal war taking place between my flesh and spirit.
  • There are desires that stem from different places within me. Some are ALL about me. Some are about someone else. Some are about making a contribution so that a cause might advance in some way. Some are about God and His Kingdom “now and not yet.”
  • I love a God who makes lavish provision for me; who is always at work on my most pertinent point of need (according to His great wisdom); who NEVER withholds from me what I need; who loves to give good gifts to me (as He defines good); who stores up treasure for me as I serve Him; who has grafted me into His family so that I have an inheritance that cannot be quantified by any known system of measuring.
  • As a Christ follower, I’m called to love God with the whole of who I am, and love others as Jesus loves. Everything else hinges on that command. If that call to love does not  PROFOUNDLY and progressively influence my longings, something core is amiss.

If you did the exercise in my last post, The Faces of Desire, it might be interesting to sit with The Lord with that paper in one hand, and slowly move through the points listed above this paragraph. I’m sure you can think of many other things that could be added to the list above… but there is enough there to make this point: There are influences from within me and from without that shape my desires. The more I know about that, the more I will understand how I’ve come to hold tightly to what I do. That is vital information to have. More importantly, I have a God who invites me to place ALL desire into His hand, to let Him take charge of them ALL.

Whatever it feels like to offer them to Him… whatever inner turmoil I might grapple with as I struggle to leave them in His hands, I hold, that until I surrender, I will NEVER approach a state of peace or contentment, nor will I do much good demonstrating love of God or love of people. I cannot, at the same time, be preoccupied with unrealized desires and be present in the moment before me. That’s double-mindedness.

I believe the end of the Age of Grace is at hand. There is Kingdom work to be done. We must field all invitations that would keep us consumed with lesser loves. We must invite Jesus into every nook and cranny of our inner-person, so that NOTHING inhibits me from loving Him and loving others. We must trust Him to keep and if need be transform our deepest, oldest, strongest desires. We are being made into the likeness of Jesus; coming into the fullness of who we are as adopted sons and daughters.

“For to set the mind
on the flesh is death,
but to set the mind on the Spirit
is life and peace.”

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The Faces of Desire

Desires2

“For the desires of the flesh
are against the Spirit,
and the desires of the Spirit
are against the flesh.”

Some desires come to us very undeveloped…like dreams or possibilities that we have not really thought through. I have a picture in my mind of a little child mesmerized by a newly discovered wild-flower as she walks in the woods. She presents it immediately to her Father who is beside her, assuming He knows all about this delicate discovery, and she allows Him to guide the experience. What He says about it will determine its value to her; its importance to her. That’s what I’d like to see happen as I go about discovering in my own journey, quick to process with The Lord; eager for Him to influence my hearts response to whatever might capture my senses.

Some desires come into my consciousness very developed, already packaged, addressed and ready to mail. In truth, they have been forming in my subconscious for any length of time, maybe a lifetime. Many things would have contributed to that formation: culture, environment, family values, trauma, life experiences, religious influence, etc.. From the moment I’m aware, those formed desires are greatly in need of sifting by the Lord as I begin to “try them on.” There will be many hidden components that only God knows about, bits that I will not be able to discern for myself. I will have expectations surrounding that desire that I’m unaware of. God must have a change to speak to me about them before they solidify and become cemented and placed in my “must have” category.

I believe God would have me be a woman of great desire. I believe He would have me dream, perhaps bigger than I ever have. I believe He would have me long for vibrancy and excitement and thrills in this life. AND… I believe He would have me offer those longings to Him… not to squish, but perhaps to enhance and/or calibrate, so that they might realize their fullest expression. And in some cases I’d have to be willing for them to head to the trash heap if they’re found to have no redeeming value.

I also believe there is a balance; a tempering, so that those desires walk side-by-side with the reality of the Kingdom work before me every day. There is a harmonious experience to be had where fullness accompanies service; and where discovery walks along side duty. When I am connected to Jesus and He is directing my steps, the wild-heart of discovery and creativity lives even as I walk out what I might otherwise categorize as pedantic.

If life is about love of God and love of people, then my desires (all of them), must ultimately be surrendered to the Lord to be kept, nurtured, and altered if necessary. Only in His safe keeping  can they find expression as He intends. I must believe He is a good God, who does not withhold riches from His children. I am, in fact, wealthy beyond measure as God would measure wealth. Am I willing to allow Him to re-form/con-form/in-form my desires to align with His heart?

Here’s a practical measure you can take with me if you want to. Pull out a piece of paper and draw a line down its center. Title the left column, “Unformed Desires” and the right column “Formed Desires.” On the left side of the page allow yourself to honestly articulate any dreams you carry… creative, wild, impossible… still undeveloped and raw. In the other column write about desires that have definition for you, that are yet unrealized or only partially so. Don’t be in a hurry. Then bring them quietly before the Lord. Sit with Him and see if He might not want to speak to you about what is there. 

Honesty is critical. There is no use pretended you do not desire something you do, or maybe more importantly, covering the emotions linked to those desires. They are (all of them, including the ones you are unaware of), already known to God and He invites you into His council, without condemnation. I suppose the end result (which I assume will require a lifetime), is that both columns would eventually become Con-formed Desires, at which point you might call them Godly Desires. I also wouldn’t be surprised that some of them blossom & grow beyond your imagination. God is infinitely more creative and can dream immeasurably more than we can. I would love to know what happens if you’d care to share.

“O Lord, all my longing
is before you;
my sighing is not hidden from you.”

~

“For He satisfies
the longing soul,
and the hungry soul
He fills with good things.”

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Self-Deceit, Desires & Discernment

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There’s a strong link between self-deceit, desires and my ability to discern. How do I ensure that self-deceit is exposed so that my longings have a chance to mature into healthy desires? Here’s my working definition. DESIRE – A longing, craving or expressed wish, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment.

~

“The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?”

Do you believe that’s true? Do you believe that your heart has the ability to self-deceive so that you are not aware of the deceit? King David prayed that God would keep him from “secret sins”…. things that might live within him he was not aware of. It was not a small request. David states that to be kept from secret sins would keep him from “great transgressions.” He speaks from personal experience.

Go back and mull over the full breadth of the incident with Bathsheba, specifically when Nathan would expose him. By the time he was confronted, the web of deceit and string of offenses was long. David had apparently tucked this somewhere deep in his subconscious because rather than being pricked in his heart by the telling of the prophets tale, he was incensed, ready to exact justice. He was self-deceived and lacked discernment even as he was being exposed.

Scripture also tells about a census David ordered that God clearly did not want him to take. The story reveals that unbeknownst to David, he was incited by an outside force to take the census. The account in 2 Samuel 24 attributes this to Satan. The account in 1 Chronicles reveals that it was the Lord’s anger against Israel that caused Him to incite David. However you sift through that conundrum, the point here is, David was woefully undiscerning. He even dismissed the caution from his chief advisor that this was a very ill-advised plan. The chilling bit is this: “David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the Lord, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done.’ ” Can you pull from the archives of your past and remember being on the backside of your own sin, only to “waken” to what you have done? I can. It’s a terrible experience.

Both of these stories reveal a weakening in David’s ability to discern. Both reveal vulnerabilities that led to profound self-deceit and the ability to be deceived from without.

Here is the take-away for me. The similarity in both these incidents is David’s lack of proximity/connectedness to God, as well as the likelihood that in both scenarios, he was “off his mark”. In one case, he ought to have been out on the battle field with his men. In the other, he’s on the backside of war, enjoying the spoils of prosperity, comparatively at leisure. He’d apparently drawn away from The Lord to the degree that his passions, typically reserved for God, were now outside the safety and care of The Almighty. 

If the heart is deceitful above ALL things, then any time my heart is out from under God’s watchful eye, it is highly vulnerable. Perhaps the most costly example is that of Eve in the garden. She and her husband walked with God, but at the moment the serpent approached, God was not present. How profound was the depth of her vulnerability, so that even though she brought her best reasoning to bear, she ended up launching the decline of the entire created order.

God is kind to show this to us. He is good to make plain the danger of  dis-connecting from the life-giving vine. Equally important however is the truth that as a child of God, I have been given a new heart. That new heart is seen and known when it is tended in the vineyards by Father God, nourished by the life within the vine that is Jesus. There, my longings and desires are tempered by the presence of the Spirit in me, tenderizing me to thoughts that align with His. 

This is not about trying harder to be more discerning so that I am less deceived, either from within or without. This is about recognizing that a heart connected to Jesus is a discerning heart; so that… 

“Your ears shall hear
a word behind you, saying,
‘This is the way, walk in it.’ ”

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Thankful, Honest & Surrendered

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As thankfulness provides context, honesty provides a launch point. Honesty is the starting-gun firing. Everything that leads to honesty happens before the race even begins, but the Starter can’t fire the gun until honesty shows up. I wonder how long I have grappled with certain inner struggles, to no avail, simply because I have not been willing to be honest about what’s really within me. Sometimes I can’t see what’s really there. In either case, there cannot be true growth until I’m able to see and call out the reality of a thing. Once that happens, often the remedy is near and simple to digest. Not always, but often.

I’ve been thinking about honesty in my conversations with God. I have found myself, more in times past than present, doing an awful lot of editing/tidying up before I bring a thing before Him. By the time those requests come out of my mouth they are distorted and usually dis-honest. I’ve tried to anticipate what He might think or say about a thing and shifted accordingly. I don’t mind the motivation behind that process but it’s not the right thing to do. God is calling me to Himself….asking me to put at His feet the things that concern me. I believe He wants to process with me right from the start. Nothing else makes sense.

The reason this matters is that I have an entirely different expectation if I allow Him to guide the way a desire forms and solidifies. In that case He’s able to walk me through the sifting of thoughts and wants, the objective being that they end up looking as He would have them look, according to His full knowledge of all things past, present and future. If I filter and edit and then come to Him, I’m primed to lobby hard for my request, having worked out what seems best to me. That’s very different from a heartfelt desire that He influence and conform according to His will. In light of whose council I receive, it makes a lot more sense to simply tell Him the thing, warts and all, then together, start unpacking what’s there that has merit. Do I really trust Him and who He says He is? This conversation lifts that lid and gives me a look inside the box.

Before Jesus was arrested, as He prayed in the garden, He asked for something He could not have, (three times no less!). It wasn’t  Father and Son’s first conversation about it because they formed the plan together before the world was created. But there in the moment, divinity and humanity co-existing, the desire for an alternate path burned within Him, and so He brought it honestly to His Father. His expectation that God’s will would be done didn’t prevent Him from making His raw desires known. That’s the balance, and what always ought to characterize my conversations with God. Thanksgiving, honesty and surrender.

“With thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known.”

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