What Do You Want?
And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“May you, our sister, become
thousands of myriads;
may your offspring gain possession
of the gates of their foes.”
Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.
Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
I think most people are fairly reasonable. Those who have never learned to stand in line and wait their turn can quickly observe others and learn to do so. Those who cannot have often learned through terrible experiences that if they do not reach out themselves they will never get what they want or need. Hunger makes thieves of us all. But those who are not hungry can usually be reasonable.
If that is true, than I suspect most of our conflicts, big or small, come not from a clash of wills, but a traffic jam of unspoken, unreflected desires. It is an unfortunate condition, not unlike hunger, that if I do not know what I want, I will not find satisfaction. Most of us in the west take the buffet approach to life: I’ll try a little of this and a little of that until I find something I like. It sounds reasonable and it keeps us from overinvesting ourselves in something we don’t really want. It works ok for food, but it does not work in other areas of life.
Take marriage for instance. Either within or outside of marriage, the majority of people have bought into the buffet approach. Either it is the “try before you buy” concept or sampling off of other plates after you have made a commitment to one. Affairs lead to divorce and pornography encourages the whole mindset even further. Often times, the affair ends faster than the original relationships and the more remarriages we have the less likely they are to last. Some people just end up with the conclusion that they are just not the “marrying type”, which might be true, but the original problem usually still persists: We are not satisfied. 4 marriages, 18 different sexual partners, and hours of pornography and we still haven’t found what we’re looking for… (cue U2). The buffet approach simply doesn’t work.
The mathematical term for this kind of approach is called the infinite limit. It is the technique of closing the distance between two points (us and our desire) by half, one step at a time. So if I want a cheeseburger and it is 1 mile away, my first attempt gets me half a mile away, the second attempt a quarter mile off, the next 1/8th, 1/16th, and so on and so forth until I am within inches of my goal. The problem is, you can divide that distance infinitely, and while it will eventually get us close enough to drop the whole charade and take the cheeseburger that is right under our nose, we often give up before then and go after something else (which is not what we want). The buffet approach too often teaches us to change what we want or to settle for being unsatisfied. It’s a mess.
Now multiply that times two, or three, or ten, or ten thousand – because every one of us has that going on inside of us, and we are trying to relate to each other. God looks at us, knowing exactly what He wants, and must shake His head and sigh at our misguided endeavors. How do we sort this all out? Jesus saw it among the people when He explained that God sent all kinds of messengers, and they were never satisfied with them, always changing their mind after the prophet showed up with a message that made them uncomfortable. They claimed they wanted God in their lives, but when it came to actually having God there, suddenly they didn’t want it anymore. I didn’t realize that it would mean I would have to change! Yes, part of being satisfied is allowing yourself to be, even when we live in a world that teaches us to never be satisfied.
But the first step is reflecting on your own desires. Do you take the time to actually think about what you want, or are you too busy thinking about what everyone else wants? There are days when I find myself making decisions in life and work based on the ideas of what people I have never met might want. And I tell myself that this is a reasonable way to plan my life. You have to take time to actually reflect and discover and name and claim that desire as your own – even in your relationship with God, because God all too often does not satisfy our desires until we are willing to ask for them. Rebekah took time to consider (and thankfully they even asked her opinion) her marriage to Isaac. Then she committed and stuck with her decision.
Commitment is the second step. If I take a bite out of the cheeseburger I want, but a TV ad is encouraging me to try something else, I may leave and never finish that meal, filling myself up on things I didn’t want and leaving the one that I did. We have to claim those desires and perseverance in them.
The wisest among us learn to seek God’s help in discerning those real desires within us, because desire is not wrong, but our perspective of it can be deceptive. We may think we want fast food when our body is simply craving protein and we can find what we want in a peanut butter sandwich without the bloating of overeating. There is a shorter way to find satisfaction, but it is costly and involves suffering. It is learning to be content. Paul writes about it to the Philippians:
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul reflected, discerned, named, and claimed that God was his one and only true desire, and expected everything else in life to leave him feeling unsatisfied. It is a humble way to live, but it is reasonable, and it allows us to move just a bit out of the mess of the traffic jam of desires, and perhaps to bring a little healing and redemption into it ourselves, sharing what satisfaction we have found in God.
What do you desire today?
Where do you find your satisfaction?