Thoughts on Desire

July 27, 2009

Mid-life crisis.  When a man turns 40-something, wakes up to find that he dreads going in to work, stuck in a loveless marriage, father to a bunch of brats, and find few trust worthy friends or even individuals around him.  He may quit his job, get a divorce, hook up with his secretary, go out and do anything to reclaim his youth and the long-lost sense of adventure.  They find that they’ve been pulled into all these different directions out of sheer duty, that they really didn’t want anything to do with.   They find themselves so-very unhappy because they had to put their own desires in the backseat while they stayed at a job they absolutely hated just to pay the mortgage.

If happiness is meeting your desires, it’s not hard to imagine why they end up so unhappy.

But happiness is more than getting what you want, isn’t it?  It’s also wanting the right thing.  Most desires are only temporary, and can only give us small bits and often diminishing amounts of happiness. A child may find temporary satisfaction from getting a toy he desperately wanted.  Some guys love getting that new car, or feel good wearing that new $200 jean.  But it fades, doesn’t it? We become bored of it rather quickly. What we seemed to have thought to last forever loses its glitter and luster rather quickly.  Some of our desires, the physical ones, are constant, for we are physical beings. We constantly need, and desire, food for instance. chocolate ice cream.  When we don’t get what we want, we become desperate pitiless beings; when we do get what we want, we lose our identity and become nothing but one giant mouth that cries “feed! feed!”  So what desire is there in this world that, when fulfilled, will grant us true happiness?  Nothing. But if I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy I can only conclude that I, I’m not made for here. (Lewis?)

This past Sunday, the pastor talked about five levels of maturity.  At the first level, we do what we want.  I think this is true.  A child is only aware of his own needs.  At the second level, we do what others tell us to do. A teenager will do anything to try and fit in.  We go to college because that’s what everyone’s doing; find a job get a family because that’s the social norm.  Next we do things out of duty.  Because “I’m just that kind of a guy”. Because your family needs you, because you’re trying to be a good father.  Next we do things out of our sense of morality.  We are fueled with moral indignation watching some documentary about human trafficking.  And finally, we do things because God commends us.

It’s interesting to note that our society prescribes men who have been disillusioned to go back to fulfilling their desires – that they must become less mature.  They attribute their sense of discontent from doing things out of duty or morality. What they, what I, really need is to do God’s will.  For all the other levels will only pull me into different directions; they war upon each other. My selfish bodily desires bid me to sleep just 10 more minutes while my sense of obligation tells me to get up.  My sense of morality wars against my desires to just fit in with the crowd.  That is why we are all fragmented; that is why it feels so damn empty when we try to do things without God. For only at the last level, only when we lose ourselves, do we truly find ourselves.  Only when we submit our wills to the will of the Father, are we given the right desire – namely, the desire for God and His will. Only then will we find ourselves in the Body of Christ, do we find true harmony and fellowship with others.  Only then will we find duty of keeping the law empowered by our love for God.  Only then will we find the true basis of all moral laws.

Pride was the downfall of Lucifer. When we are too full of ourself, of our own desires, we become too heavy. Angels fly because they think lightly of themselves. (Chesterton?) So for that man who is in mid-life crisis, or that guy who is in the quarter-life crisis, the answer isn’t to do what you desire, like what everyone is telling you.  The answer is to do what God wants you to do.  That is spiritual food; and you cannot grow without eating. As you grow, you’ll find your desires being transformed; but you may not notice because you’ll think of yourself less.  In Great Divorce, Lewis paints a picture of heaven, where some are adorned with beautiful robes, and some are without clothes.  But the radiance, the real, substantiative bodies we are given is so much more glorious than those garments that no one cares about who’s wearing what.

Forget yourself. Only then can you become a real Self.

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