We have two typical responses when confronted with desire. The first is to indulge it. We want what we want and we want it now.
This is the starting place for most of us even as little children. Some of us never outgrow it. We can trace this approach back to our first father and mother who, though God said not to, ate the forbidden fruit because it looked good and seemed to promise what they wanted.
The other typical response when confronted with desire is to repress it. We deal with our longing by burying it or cutting ourselves off from it.
We learn to do this for a number of reasons, not least of which is how destructive things can get when we indulge too much. If feeding my desire leads to pain, or addiction, or broken relationships, or just plain sin, then desire itself must be bad.
Religious people are perhaps especially prone to this response. We mistake God’s commands for an indictment against our desires, forgetting that what the enemy promised as the outcome of Adam and Eve’s disobedience—to be like God (see Genesis 3:5)—was actually what God wanted for them all along (see Genesis 1:26). They just went about it the wrong way.
Jesus approached desire differently. He had an undeniably solid reverence for Jewish moral law, which He obeyed without fail. And yet, He spent time at parties with sinners, enjoyed the Sabbath, and repeatedly disregarded Jewish customs whenever they got in the way of helping people.
In short, he demonstrated both the ability to say no to temptation and the ability to say yes to human desire.
How can we live like He did?
It’s worth doing all we can. It also won’t take long to discover that human desire is a powerful force—more powerful than human will. If we’re not careful, we’ll wind up right back where we started: either indulging or repressing desire.
Instead, we should let this helpless state stoke a desire for a Savior who lives within us, who becomes one with us.
Where our first mother and father “took and ate” from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6), we instead can let our desire compel us to “take and eat” of Christ Himself (Matthew 26:26).
This is a point where many become frustrated. Our human desires are so real, so visceral, so physical, and what I’ve just written sounds so “spiritual” in contrast. Is it really any practical use?
It is, but it’s also unfamiliar, especially where we’re used to indulging or repressing our desires.
Perhaps begin with this simple shift in your approach: Instead of asking God for help dealing with your desires, and imagining that what you’re doing is like sending Him a letter and waiting to get His response in the mail sometime later, use the good of your imagination to “see” yourself uniting yourself and all your desires to God—His power filling your weakness, His love infusing your love, His desire reordering your desires, Him changing the fabric of who you are.
Practice this as you pray, during worship, as you sing to Him, when you take communion.
This is a mystery, an act of faith, a mystical reality, a union of physical and spiritual. But this union between you and God is what Christianity is about. And it’s the fulfillment of your desire.
I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or question here.