You know, sometimes nothing seems as appropriate as a good old, wallow-in-the-muck pity party. Know what I mean? Like, once in a while, someone needs to remember Me, that there are things I want in life, a lifestyle that I deserve. That's only reasonable, right?
But it seems like the life I want and deserve isn't happening, and I don't like it. After all, it's my life, and it's only reasonable that I have just a bit of what I was made for.
Don't misunderstand me: I don't mean luxury. A modest house, a pickup truck, and perhaps a smallish sailboat, and I'm a happy man.
I don't think any of these desires are unreasonable. A pickup - and old one, not high-dollar - isn't asking much. Pretty much an essential in a man's life, right? And even a modest boat is far from luxury. But these things are only a small part of my life, and not the answer to fulfillment. They should be on the edge of my attention, not the center.
There are some other elements, more important. For example, to use the gifts God gave me; to love deeply and be loved; to feel like it makes a difference that I live. Perhaps we could put them together in one word: significance. And these are certainly more than reasonable, as well.
Of course they are. Except for one thing: Everything I have written above has one focus. Me.
But here's a news flash: The world doesn't revolve around me. Or you. Life - even my life - is not about me. And as long as I try to make it about me, I lose. Further, many of my oh-so-reasonable desires are only manifestations of my brokenness.
So, do I really have a "right" to these things? Or should I be stamping out the last remnant of desire in myself? Perhaps I should take a vow of poverty? If I believe that I died with Jesus, where does that leave me? Is it wrong to have desires, even deep longings? No.
Many of our desires and longings are God's doing: He made us that way. We were designed, for example, for intimacy, to know and love deeply and to be known and loved the same way. Being loved gives us significance. Neither is it inherently wrong to enjoy pleasure. Even reading the first couple chapters of Genesis shows a God who knows pleasure and enjoys his creation. It's not even wrong to enjoy a sailboat, as an item of beauty and pleasure.
The problem comes when these good things become an end in themselves, and our focus and efforts are given first to satisfying our desires. It's a problem because the only way these empty places in us can be filled is through the presence and relational work of God in us. That's how we're made.
God created us, say the theologians, "in his image." In some important ways, we reflect God, and can therefore know some things about ourselves by knowing God.
For example, we see in God that he acts with purpose: God is not random or arbitrary. Also, God is relational, not wanting to live in isolation, without intimacy. He has deep longings and desires. He enjoys creating and then enjoys what he creates.
We can easily see those characteristics in ourselves, as well. What is less evident is that the desires and longings they engender can only be satisfied in us when God is in his proper place in our lives. We are made with some deep longings, near the core of who we are. One is for intimacy, to be known and valued. Another, related, is for significance.
We are made in the image of God, and we can find fulfillment of the things at our core only as we are related to the God who made us. Only God can satisfy our longings. No person, no job, and collection of toys can do the job. As we shove God out of his rightful place, he goes but the longing remains, unsatisfied and even intensified, and we develop an unhealthy drive to fill the empty place with people and things. These may be good in themselves, but they are being used in a role for which they are neither equipped nor intended. It doesn't work.
So, I would still like a nice house, an old pickup, and a sailboat. More, I long for intimacy and significance. But I have learned this: true intimacy must be first with God, and significance comes to me first because God declares me important to him. Without that, nothing else matters. And with that, even my other desires are easily satisfied, and ultimately not very important. Reasonable or not.