The Desires Of Your Heart

I had a lot of dreams growing up.

When I was five I wanted to be an astronaut, because I loved space and that just seemed to be the most obvious choice. By about six my love of dinosaurs won over my love of space and I decided to be a paleontologist. By around eight or nine I had developed enough of an ego to want to be a nuclear physicist: it sounded impressive and like something only a really smart person could do, you see.

I can’t recall what, if anything, I wanted to be in fifth or sixth grade, but by middle school I had decided I simply wanted to be absurdly rich. No idea how, mind you; that’s just what I wanted. As my adolescence went I delved more into vulgar power fantasies; destroying the school with psychic powers, forcing all of my “enemies” to beg for forgiveness. So on and so forth. At one point, I think around nineteen or so, my biggest “dream” was having a job that paid just enough for me to survive and play video games on.

In the nine years since I’ve become a Christian, and grown up into a largely functional adult, my hopes and dreams and desires for my life have changed substantially, both overall and within that period. I’ve found myself wanting things like a more impressive job, more financial stability, going on mission trips, going on vacations, getting married, becoming some kind of published writer, living in the woods, having kids, moving away from New York, dying, become a manly man, becoming famous for no particular reason, etcetera, etcetera. Some of these desires I still have, to one extent or another.

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that trusting and obeying God was the best way to get these things. Quickly enough I realized most of these just weren’t going to happen,but maybe if I wanted more godly things they could. So I’d pray for some significant task to be set before me that I would be empowered to handle, I’d pray that I’d become a godly husband and father someday, that I could find some better way to live my life. That I could wake up in the morning and know that I was a better person than I was the day before. That I could feel some kind of satisfaction in my life, some understanding that I was doing the correct things, and that because of this my life would turn out in some satisfactory way.

Earlier tonight I was on a walk along a short greenway near my latest apartment, and thoughts along these lines entered my head. And I came to realize something very significant: all this time, I was looking to God to fulfill all of these wants and very deeply felt desires in my life, but I was never terribly interested in God himself. I wanted what I thought I could get from God, but I didn’t want God. At the same time, I was reminded that none of the things I wanted were ever going to satisfy me. At least not for very long. Pleasant sensations, material wealth, ego gratification, even things like a self of accomplishment, a sense of belonging or purpose. I’ve had all of these at one time or another, and without exception they’e all worn out, leaving me both disappointed and hungry for more.

I’ve learned all of these things before, many of them several times. I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood them quite like this, however. For so long I thought I was in pursuit of God, yet really I was no different than middle school me, wanting to just be a billionaire. Gratification that won’t last. And it is really only now that it as struck me that the gratification doesn’t last, and so the pursuit is ultimately futile. Oh I’ve known for well over a decade what a disappointment life is, but I think it is only now that I really know why.

So with all of this now laid bare, I’m left with two options. I can live what I now fully understand to be a pointless life of pursuing things and feelings that cannot last and will only grow more and more painful every time they fail me, or I can do the one thing different. I can long what I’ve perhaps never truly longed for before. I can desire God himself. Not for what he can give me, not just to heal my hurts and tell me I am loved. I can go after God simply because he is God, love him for who he is, and live for the very purpose I was created.

I guess the first step is figuring out how.

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