I love it when my children receive gifts. I love it even more when my children receive gift cards – because honestly, we do not need any more toys in this house!
But what I don’t love is the event called “Can we go to the store so I can buy something with my gift card?” It always sounds like such an easy thing – I mean, you’ve only got $10, so how hard could it be?
Forty-five minutes later as we’re wandering through the same five aisles we’ve walked through ten times each, I wonder why I thought this was going to be easy! I’ve suggested multiple options and multiple combinations of those options, but they’ve all been vetoed.
The problem is, I know what you want – you’re just not willing to say it. You want that stuffed animal, but you also know that I’m going to say a firm “NO!” to that stuffed animal because you already have so many stuffed animals they don’t fit on your bed. And you also know we recently donated several trash bags full of old ones you weren’t playing with anymore.
But in the back of your mind, you can’t let go of that fluffy, brightly-colored, glittery-eyed puppy – and so nothing else is going to make the cut! If you just admitted it, we could get the “NO!” over with and move on, but instead, we walk the aisles one more time…
We’re all born with desire – it’s part of being human. We also learn early on that not all desires are going to be fulfilled in the way we want them to. Sometimes the things we want are “bad” because they are harmful or have the potential to become harmful. Sometimes the things we want are “selfish” because we just don’t need them.
As we get older, we gain a little more self-control over those desires. That doesn’t mean they go away – we just get better at hiding them (even from ourselves). We learn how to pray “spiritually correct” prayers so God knows we’re not being selfish. We assume that if we pretend they’re not there, our desires will somehow get small enough to disappear.
In Psalm 86, King David calls out to the Lord for mercy. After admitting his need, David proclaims his God’s greatness “among the gods” and then presents this request:
“Teach me your way, LORD,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.”
For David and his people, there was great temptation to worship other gods in hopes that a desire might be fulfilled. This would lead to a “divided” heart, where a portion of one’s heart was still for the Lord – but only a portion. An “undivided” heart, on the other hand, would fully trust this great God and his great wisdom, care, and provision.
A desire sought after is a recipe for a divided heart – but so is a desire stuffed down and ignored. We say we trust God with “everything,” but that “everything” is vague and really only includes “everything I’m comfortable trusting Him with.” In our attempts to be “good” and look “good” to ourselves and to God, we hold back, grabbing certain pieces of our hearts and sitting on them, hoping if we don’t acknowledge them or call them by name, they’ll go away.
Jesus has clearly called me to “deny” the fulfillment of my sinful and selfish desires (Mark 8:34), but that doesn’t mean denying their existence. Squashing them only feeds them by giving them permission to hang out unsupervised in the back of my mind. Jesus wants me to be “set free” from the power of sin and self (John 8:36), but I can’t be freed from anything I’m not willing to be honest about the existence of.
It’s my automatic reaction as a Christian to sense a sinful or selfish desire and think “Oh, I shouldn’t be thinking that,” give myself a little “Stop that!”, and move on. When I’m praying, it’s second nature for me to think carefully about what I’m saying – to manicure my prayers into what I think God would like to hear.
Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is like, “Hello!? I know what you really want to say! Why don’t you just spit it out so I can speak My truth over it and we can move on, already!”
Acknowledging my real desires might be the very thing that frees me from their power. Being honest unclouds my fluffy, brightly-colored, glittery-eyed-puppy tunnel vision to see the many ways He is, has been, and will continue to provide for me. Being honest with God unites my heart to fully trust Him with everything – meaning I can honestly worship Him “with all my heart”.