A Pastor's Word: Desire

"We can't choose what we want and don't want and that's the hard lonely truth. Sometimes we want what we want even if we know it's going to kill us. We can't escape who we are."
- Theodore Decker in The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

There is an attitude that places desire at the heart of identity and then assumes both to be unchangeable. Immutable and thus unquestionable. The Goldfinch is an excellent novel for many reasons, but one is that by the end it is clear that such a belief is equivalent to fatalism. 

However, it is much easier not to argue about where one thinks this belief leads and instead simply point out that it is mistaken. Desires are not beyond our ability to affect. 

None of us were born needing to wind down at the end of the day with TV and a bag of chips. Our three year old selves did not long for the things we dream of now. And yes, I suppose these are simplistic illustrations, but perhaps it is high time we realized that this attitude towards desire is equally simplistic. Infantile even. 

Our desires have been formed. They can be reformed.

This is an important part of my reading of the Psalms. When I get a Psalm inside of me it reforms my desire. 

"Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you..." 
"O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water..." 
"Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God..."

Desire is not a bad thing, but it is a sad truth of our times that our desires are often formed towards things that do not lead to life. I have found the Psalms to be a particularly strong anti-viral, necessary and vital for my faith and my self. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Years ago, I had the opinion that “He who wants nothing is very powerful”. At the time I owned neither a car nor a camera nor a cell phone nor a thousand other things, and did not want them. I gave it up when I realized how insular the opinion was, being similar to “freedom from want” and which profession is possible only for a person in a rich society.

Roger Hui