Collection of the Saint
Anticipating this week's theme I entered this prayer into my journal. Call it an invocation, if you'd like.
God, I don't know what your plans are for this [situation to remain unspoken], but as I head into this week's theme of desire I timidly scoop up the soggy, smudgy pieces of [unspoken broken thing] to You and ask, Please fix it, Daddy-God.
And as I entered the week's Psalm, the scripture passages, the prayers and the meditations of other saints on the topic I found myself leaving the broken thing behind and getting a tiny glimpse of the purest of all desire -- to know God's glory.
Lord, I do not know what to ask of you; only you know what I need. I simply present myself to you; I open my heart to you. I have no other desire than to accomplish your will. Teach me to pray. Amen. [Francois Fenelon in Little Book of Prayers]
Not that I thought of this particular object of my desire as a bad thing. Far from it. But to contrast what I hold in my hand or want to hold in my hand to the glittering glory of Father, Son and Spirit as told by Moses, Paul, David, Kelly, Tozer and Bounds, well, it just didn't seem to matter as much anymore. I can't say that I reached the point Paul did when he calls his own acquisition from desire dog dung compared to the riches of Christ. But maybe cheap knock-offs. Something like dipping my toes in an inflatable kiddy pool compared to the time Brian and I swam in the Caribbean waters off a private beach in St. Bart's.
I always have connected desire to a positive emotion. That probably shows how little I have actually meditated the word because the reality is I have my own anguish-inducing list of hopes deferred, desires that seem foolish and impossible. Things that keep me up at night and seem to torture me in my daydreams. This week I ran into metaphor and simile and analogy that spoke of this sort of pain and want: hunger, thirst, deep-seated craving, anxious longing, wistful longing, yearning, restlessness, disturbance.
Mixed into all this a truth I have come to know in my life was re-confirmed. There is an aspect of the suffering of desire that is completely intended by, what John Eldredge refers to as, our Divine Thwarter. And I was re-reminded in the Luke telling of a bunch of insecure disciples embarrassed that they could not understand Jesus' teaching. I imagine their thoughts; heck I've had their thoughts: Jesus, enough with the stories already, could you just spit it out in plain talk?!? And Luke's narrative says it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it. Hardly seems fair, does it?
It's paradox, boys and girls. While the Divine Thwarter closes their eyes to the facts of Jesus' impending betrayal, Jesus continues to pull out more story-telling tricks from his never-depleted bag. Well, it's like this child over here. He waves over a child playing nearby. Come on over here for a minute, little one. And to the disciples as he likely laid an arm around the small child's shoulders, You become great by accepting, not asserting.
Really doesn't seem fair, does it? Actually almost cruel. However, when I keep the true character of my God in mind I am led into right-truth. God is okay with my desire. He is okay because He knows He is sufficient for every longing. And, He is so okay with it He is in no hurry to relieve me. He is familiar with the suffering of desire. He is also familiar with the reward of desire met. He knows this longing and yearning and hoping and expecting grinds deep crevices in me that shape places, hidden and plainly seen, for Him to deposit something of Himself. You become great by accepting, not asserting.
On Sunday, I left the week's theme of desire wanting to be more like Moses who encountered the Source of all Desires-Met and instead of that encounter leaving him with no more desire, the longing to see God only increased.
Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in they sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in they sight...I beseech thee, show me thy glory.Paradox. Jesus calls Himself the Living Water. This implies a thirst-quencher, not a thirst-remover. He is okay with my thirst -- the suffering of thirst leads me to water. The suffering of hunger leads me to Bread.
To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul's paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily-satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. St. Bernard stated this holy paradox in a musical quatrain that will be instantly understood by every worshipping soul:May every desire that makes its way in me name me by suffering and disturbance as one of the children of the burning heart.
We Taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.Amen.
swimming off St. Bart's