Is it dangerous to desire?
I don’t know if it is a girl thing, or an age thing, or just a Sarah Urban thing, but I feel like I can sit and fantasize and desire all day long.
All my life there have been a few key things that I have desired so fiercely, and in each season of my life there are smaller desires that take shape, and ones that fall away. I recently read an article by a writer I love, and she admitted that all her life she wanted to be a mom, but once she had her children she found herself blazing too fast through the busyness of routine and missing the special moments with them that she’d been dreaming of for so long. Now, there is certainly something to learn from this about slowing down and defeating busyness and apathy; but what got me thinking is when she said, “All my life I wanted to be a mom.”
All my life I wanted…
What have I wanted? What are my desires? What are my dreams?
Is that okay? Are those normal? What does it say about me that I have a tendency to ‘want’?
I think it is important to mention the scale of desire. There are things we want that are fleeting—tacos, a nap, 10 minutes in Anthropologie while the anti-theft detectors are off and the employees aren’t looking (is that just me???). Then there are things we really want that would have a bigger impact—a car that doesn’t break down, the time and money to travel, an invitation to hangout with those people you’ve always wanted to be friends with. And finally, up close, front and center, there are the things a bit deeper that we really really really want, that we spend an embarrassing amount of time thinking about, things that seem like they could change everything—a spouse, a job, a home, children, joy, stability, good health. Each of our wants and desires are different and unique to us, but for the most part we all have a similar tier of importance in which they are classified. And to be clear, in this post I am talking about the deep, top tier things. Our really really really wants. Our it could change everything wants.
So, when I started thinking about desire, I realized there are a couple other things that go hand in hand. In order to talk about things we long for, we have to talk about contentment and significance.
Contentment is what is being referenced in all the cliche phrases regarding being present. You know, “live in the moment,” “Stop and smell the roses,” “Forever is composed of nows." All these quotes hint at the idea that it is important to appreciate and pay attention to what is going on now instead of continually looking forward to what will go on later. I think our desires become a problem when they come from a place of discontent. I’m not naive to the fact that sometimes things do suck, and sometimes we want out, but I’m going to be annoyingly cliche and say that in the midst of the crap there are still things to learn before fast-forwarding to the next season. In general, if we are fantasizing about future things because we think they will be so much better than the present, we’re doing it wrong and we’re missing the point.
I don’t think we are in the season or circumstance or situation we are in right now by mistake. I think God is doing something in my life and in yours, and I think He is trying to teach us something in our respective lives at this very moment. I think there are bits of goodness in every season and if we don’t pay attention to them we are not doing well with what He has given us (Luke 19:26). We can spend the rest of our lives desiring. It doesn’t end when you buy a home, have children, or get married—your desires will just shift to what comes next in line. There will always be a more spacious home, a couple that seems more in love, a paycheck that allows for more luxury. We are wired to want. The secret is learning to be satisfied with your current reality.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12)
When I talk about significance in relation to desire, I am talking about the significance of those desires. Their value in our lives—how much our wants are worth to us. The second way desire becomes a problem is when we start to seek the fulfillment of our own wants more than we seek God. Let’s back up a little bit. I believe there is a God, and I believe (because I have experienced and witnessed it in my own life and in others’ lives) that He has plans for us that are way way WAY better than we could ever dream up for ourselves (Eph 3:20). So often I plan something to a tee and fantasize about it for hours, only to have the situation pan out entirely different. Or worse, things happen that I never planned and don’t even want! I’m not one who believes “everything happens for a reason,” or that God causes horrible things to happen just so we learn a lesson. Pain and suffering occur as a result of sin—different subject for a different time. I do believe, however, that God uses those circumstances, and can give them purpose.
Bottom line, God wants to bless us. He delights in giving us what we desire, and loves to see us appreciate good things (Ecc 5:18). Because I know that God works for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28), and that He has plans to prosper and not to harm us (Jer 29:11), I trust Him. My desires shift from what I want to what He wants for me. Letting go of control is scary, because things might come our way that seem contrary to our idea of what is best. But I know that all I can see is what is right in front of me, whereas God sees the big picture. I trust that He knows better and that He will not forsake me (Deut 31:6). Desiring our own orchestrated plans is tempting and seems less risky, but I believe giving up our plans to God and putting His desires first will provide a better payout.
I don’t want to communicate that desiring things is always wrong, because that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Someone recently reminded me that it was God who created us with minds that imagine and dream and desire. He created us and said it was good (Gen 1:31). He wants us to ask for things and have faith that He will deliver (James 5:16, 1 John 5:14-15). It is not dangerous to desire as long as we are conscious of our heart behind those things. Putting too much faith in our own plans is a slippery path to walk. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on God (Col 3:2), and desire His will above our own.
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matt 6:19-21)
"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)