We Are All Called To Chastity

A few posts ago I wrote about that the fact that holiness is not THE point of marriage.  Without rehashing all of that here, the main points were:

  • We often act as if there is not joy in marriage and that happiness isn’t even part of it, which is super counter productive to our culture at this time.
  • We’ve sort of created a context in which marriage is the answer to our supposed uncontrollable desire for sex.  In other words we all desire sex, can’t control that desire, and therefore the only “holy” answer to that is marriage.  This is theologically bad and practically creates all kinds of conundrums in our current culture.

But this raises many other questions not least of which is: what then makes you holy?  Or maybe in this context a more exact question would be, when it comes to sexual desire, what is the path to holiness?

Let’s start with this truth:  There are a lot of different contexts that people trying to follow Jesus find themselves in right now.  There are those who are married, divorced, widowed, not yet married, celibate by birth, made celibate by men (or the fall of man) and those who choose celibacy for the Kingdom. (I have a whole series of posts coming on these last three).

Each and everyone of these have different biblical instructions.  Each have sub contexts within them.  But there is one path that every one of these is called to follow towards holiness.  That is each and every one of these is called to chastity.  Indeed, all of us, regardless of context, is called to chastity.

Marriage as THE way to holiness is a non starter because:

  1. Not all of these people are called, or for that matter biblically instructed to, get married.
  2. It assumes that no one can have holiness in their sexuality outside of marriage – which basically means that you can’t actually be called to chastity to begin with since none of us are born married.

So what is Chastity.  Chastity includes, although it is not limited to, the proper ordering of sexual pleasure.  It is an understanding that sexual pleasure itself does not bring lasting joy.  It it not the goal.  All Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life.  In other words, regardless of marital status we are called to chastity.

What this means is that chastity is not the same as celibacy or even abstinence.  The chaste unmarried person refrains from sexual pleasure while the chaste married person seeks sexual pleasure only within the marriage covenant.

Now within these different contexts, the Lord can use our chastity to help us become more holy – more devoted and set apart for God.  This is because in order to be chaste, we have to submit and often surrender our personal sexual desires to God.  Doing this consistently changes our focus from fulfilling our own desires selfishly to conforming to God’s.  Living a chaste life impacts how we view God, ourselves and others.

As a bonus it also protects us and others.  It protects us from the sin and consequences of fornication and adultery.  It protects us physically, emotionally and spiritually.  It also sets us apart in a fallen world and therefore strengthens our witness to others.  In fact I would suggest, and have suggested, that living a chaste life is one of the four ways that we can set ourselves apart so that others will listen to what we have to say about Jesus.**

Now it is important to note something here.  Chastity is not the so much the goal as the means to the goal.  In other words chastity is more than just avoiding sexual sin, it is avoiding sexual sin in order to walk more closely in obedience to God – which is the goal.

This by the way is true of many things and important to our understanding of how this life works.  Chastity, orthodoxy, the sacraments, the bible, etc, are all tools not the end goals. They are things instituted by God to help us on our path of to Him, not the other way around.

So what we can know is that regardless of marital status, we are called to live chaste in that context.  It is not impossible with the help of God to live that way.  That doesn’t make it easy, but we are not doomed to unholiness without marriage.  In fact we are called to holiness regardless.  Not only that but God can give us the grace to live that out in each of these contexts if we seek Him and do it with Him.  And that seeking of Him and obedience to His calling is what sends us towards holiness.

 

** – I believe that in our current culture if we do four things in accordance to the teaching of the scriptures we will have a platform to share Jesus.  That is, what we do with our money, our time, our sexual desire and how we handle reconciliation.  If we do those four things the way the world does them, then we look no different from the world and very few if any will take our witness seriously.

We Are All Called To Reproduce

In the very beginning when God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He created them with purpose.  I like to say that God created us to be in relationship with Him, reflect Him and to represent Him.  Instead he said, “Be fruitful and multiply.  Fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule . . .”  He created us male and female in His image.  We therefore reflect who he is in our very being.  But we were also to go, to multiply, to fill the earth.  Now this was based on our communal relationship with Him.  This of course takes exactly one page in the bible before we mess it all up.

However, once we are reconciled to Jesus, he essentially gives us the same command.  “Go and share the gospel and make disciples”  In other words, go represent me in the world and multiply.

Here’s the truth I want to get at today.  We are created, each of us, with the desire to multiply.  Yes there is a biological aspect to that.  Understand that God even created that desire.  But there is more to it than that.  There is something deeper.  Something that knows that we are to multiply.

This is part of the reason why we have some of the recent phenomena in our culture including:

  • More women having children out of wedlock
  • Even though women are waiting longer to get married, they still have children late.  Sometimes far into their 40’s.
  • There is a rising number of unmarried women in their 30’s and 40’s having children out of wedlock on purpose.   (I address this here)
  • Married couples are choosing artificial means to have children

What’s interesting is that this is true even in the face of a huge chunk of our culture saying (for a variety of reasons) that having more children is a bad idea and a declining birthrate overall in Western society.

The Church of course is all about this.  This is because many parts of the church, particularly evangelicalism (whatever that actually means at this point), see the nuclear family as the answer to every question.  In fact some go so far as to include in their statement of beliefs that the nuclear family is the foundation upon which God’s kingdom advances.

This is their attempt to both answer the desire to multiply and corral the misuse of that desire.

Now I’m not anti nuclear family.  But the problem is that the nuclear family is not the answer to the to the problem and frankly suggesting that the nuclear family is the foundation for kingdom advancement is at best misguided and borderline heresy.

I’m going to say more soon about the “family” and the Church as well as back up and talk more about why we need a robust theology of celibacy and marriage together.  But for today I’d like to tackle the desire to reproduce.

The truth is that we are all indeed called to reproduce.  The desire is good.  But the Kingdom of God is not grown by having babies.  It is grown by making disciples.  It is true that in the Old Testament, the Kingdom was in many ways advanced by physical offspring.  This starts with Abraham and continues all the way up to Jesus.  But even in the Old Testament there are words that point to a different future – a future we live in right now!

Hear these words from Isaiah 56

Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
    “I am only a dry tree.”

  For this is what the Lord says:

“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose what pleases me
    and hold fast to my covenant—
 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
    a memorial and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
    that will endure forever.

Or from Isaiah 54

“Sing, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband,”

How can Eunuchs and barren women have sons and daughters?

It starts with Jesus.  Listen again to Isaiah from chapter 53 after he describes what the Messiah will go through he says:

For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.[b]
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes[c] his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.

The truth is that Jesus changed the whole thing.  The gospel puts things right.  It reorders the way things work, and re-establishes our call to reproduce and multiply.  As a believer you may or may not be called to marry and have children.  And because we live in a fallen world, even if you are called to that, it might not happen.  But all of us, regardless of if we are called to marriage or celibacy are called to multiply – to grow the Kingdom.  But not only are we called to it, we can participate it in it.  The celibate man can have offspring.  The barren woman can have children in the Kingdom.

At the end of Matthew 19, which is chalk full of thoughts on celibacy and marriage, Peter says to Jesus, “we have left all to follow you.”  Jesus replies,

“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

The Kingdom is both now and coming.  Marriage, family and celibacy are all a reflection of it, not the other way around.  In the Kingdom, regardless of context, we can and in fact are called to be fruitful and multiply.

Should You Pray For A Spouse?

One of the things I did a lot as a single person is pray for a spouse.  That took a lot of different forms.  Sometimes it was simple and relaxed.  Other times it took the form of crying out (read begging) for God to bring me The One.  Often when I really thought someone could be the one it was praying for God to “make it happen”, sometimes before I’d even been on a date (that hurts a little to type – Ha!).

But over and over again for years, it never happened.  God didn’t “answer” my prayer.

This really begs two different types of questions.  First, should we, and if so how should we, pray about gaining a spouse.  Second, why is it that God doesn’t seem to answer this prayer or as I like to say, why doesn’t God just “poof” us a spouse.

Before I give my feeble attempt to answer those two questions (the first one in this post and the latter in an upcoming post), let me remind us of a few things that we need to clear out of the way.  Platitudes that we know aren’t true and that I’ve debunked here before.  Those include but are not limited to: There is not a Christian Soulmate; God does not owe you a spouse; God is not holding out on you; God Has Not Changed His plan for marriage; It might not be God’s fault; and You don’t earn a spouse.

Ok, now let’s get to it.

First of all, I think it is absolutely a great thing to pray for a spouse.  Why would you not take your desire to God.  You don’t need to try to kill that desire (ignore the whole “it’s when you don’t want it it will happen thing” – that is sort of good advice if it means, don’t be desperate, but pretending you don’t want something is called avoidance, not dealing with it).

We need to take our heart to God.  But I think how we pray can really help us here.  Let’s get very practical.  Here are some things I’d encourage in prayer about a spouse.

  • Avoid praying for THE ONE as there isn’t the one.  This also decreases the pressure when you do meet someone and makes hearing God less pressurized as well.  Maybe pray of A One or something like that.
  • Pray for wisdom and discernment.  “God show me what to do and who to pursue further.  God show me what you want me to do.  Do you like this relationship?” etc.
  • Submit to God.  This was huge for me.  I finally quit praying for a spouse.  I took a step back and said, “God, I’ll do whatever you want (You’ll probably need to at least mostly mean that), Just tell me what to do”.
  • Understand that there are different forces at work.  So pray for protection.  Both in searching for a spouse and also for protection of your heart, mind and will from spiritual attack.
  • Pray for God to show you (through others, directly, or in any way) the things that you are doing wrong in this process. “God show me my sin,”or maybe “God show me where you are working on me right now.”
  • Also ask God to show you lies you are believing.  Lies about Him, yourself, the opposite sex, marriage, singleness – you name it.  Ask Him to help you not believe them.
  • Ask Him to heal wounds that you have in this area.

This seems like a lot of prayer.  But I think too often we get wrapped up in the wrong prayers.  We pray for The One because we’ve made marriage an idol.  Or we pray for a particular One because we’ve made that person an idol.  We might pray for a spouse and not pray for anything else – therefore essentially basing our whole prayer life with God on finding another person.  I’ve done all of those things.

Finally as we pray we need to be willing to hear anything.  We need to be willing to hear yes or no.  I think a big part of what makes listening to God hard is that we are afraid of what He will say.  What if God wants me to marry a person I’m not attracted to?  What if He wants to me to remain celibate for life?  What if He calls me out on a sin?  What if He tells me not to marry this person I really want to?  It’s the old, “What if God calls me to move to Africa” fear.

But here’s the thing; If we aren’t fully submitted to Him, it will  be hard first to hear and secondly to trust what we hear as coming from Him.  This is of course true of all prayer not just prayer in this area of our lives.  But it can be especially true in areas of prayer, including this one, where we have a high emotional involvement.  It can border on anguish sometimes, and I want to acknowledge that if that’s where you are at, but we can’t stay there.

In summary, we should absolutely pray about this area of our life.  We should do it in submission to God, while at the same time avoiding false submission sounding platitudes and being open and honest with God.  Heck maybe the starting point could be, “God, right now I want what I want.  Help me to step back and be submitted to you.  That’s what I want, to do what you want.  Help me do that.” Then go from there.

Attraction Before Rescue

Back in 2001 there was a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.  It was a book that sort of came out of left field for me and there was so much in it that as a man I resonated with.  In it, Eldredge talks about many things but one of the key premises that he shares is that men are tying to answer the question, “Do I have what it takes?”

I really do believe that in some form every guy is asking that.  It’s a value question.  In other words, as a man, I get my value from the answer to that question.  The book goes much deeper into that question and how it was or wasn’t answered by our fathers.

As Eldredge dives into that question he further shares that men desire three main things.  A battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. It’s this last desire that I want to talk about today.  As with all of these desires – there’s a lot of ways to mess this one up.

When I read that book, I was 29 years old and single.  I was going after my full time ministry work hard.  I was living the adventure and fighting the battle.  No doubt about it.  But as a single guy, I thought, “What do I do with that last desire?”

I think the desire is real.  I say that because it’s ingrained everywhere.  It’s in movie after movie, story after story.  Hero guy sees girl in distress.  Hero rescues girl.  Hero gets girl. But like most things in life, it’s not quite as simple as a 90 minute movie.

In real life, not every girl in distress wants to be rescued.  Not every girl in distress should be rescued by you.  And, just because you rescue the girl (or have a part in it) doesn’t have much to do with getting the girl.

Right now a lot of good, nice guys are thinking, “Damn straight!” I hear you.  I lived it for far too long.

Here’s how it works.  You are attracted to a girl.  You see her beauty and you see that she needs rescued – usually from dating someone other than you – the “bad for her” guy.  You are there for her, listen to her, give her advice, and in the Christian world “minister” to her. You of course tell her how great she is and that she deserves better.  She’s not into you, but you want her to be and if you can just “rescue her” she would be.  In some circles this is called The White Knight Syndrome.

But it gets worse.  “Christian” dating advice to men just exasperates the situation.  You’re trying to be a Godly man and do things right.  So what do they tell you?  To man up of course.  Be a good guy.  It’s your job to protect women even from yourself.  Guard her heart.  Be clear about your intentions.  Be nice.  She’s the victim of the last bad guy she dated (or in some circles the guy she was married to).

No where are we called to do this in the Bible by the way.  I’ve heard people say (and I’ve said) that wives submit to your husband does not mean girlfriend submit to your boyfriend. Fair enough.  But neither does it say, boyfriend love your girlfriend as Christ loves the church . . .

We teach people who they should marry but not how to meet them. We tell people what not to with their date, but not how to get a date. We tell men to man up and women to dress up without explaining why that matters. We can help you break up with the wrong person, but we can’t seem to help you learn how to approach the right one. We tell men to guard girls’s without telling them how to win them to begin with.

Here’s the reality.  The desire is good, but there are only two ways you can help rescue a girl so speak.  The first is if you don’t want to date her and you just want to help her. Sometimes in ministry this actually happens.  As a strong male leader, you can have impact in women’s lives.  Nothing wrong with that.

The second way is to get the girl and then rescue her.  This is what Eldredge, and for that matter Ephesians 5 is referencing.  It assumes you are married to the beauty – and for that matter that the one you are married to is the beauty.

We don’t rescue the girl to get the girl.  We get the girl to rescue her.  And then you fight for her the rest of your life.  Sometimes that fighting for her will mean fighting with her and you can’t do that if you are constantly trying to get her to like you.  And get this, sometimes you’ll have to do it even when you don’t feel like it.  Crazy.

Here’s what we need to get a hold of.  Attracting the girl and rescuing her are not the same thing.  They aren’t even in the same sphere.  Learn to do the first, and you’ll have a chance at the latter.  You don’t rescue her with the goal of getting her because then what?  Get her and then spend the rest of your days trying to figure out how to love/rescue her.

The thing about the hero in the movie – the girl already liked him.

 

 

 

 

Is He Gay?

About 20 years ago on a random cold night I was hanging out with my brother and sister. We had planned to go to a movie but got snowed out. So we settled for a snack at a nearby McDonald’s and as so often happens when you actually stop and share a meal, a real conversation broke out.

My sister was dating a guy and it was heading to marriage.  As we were talking somehow my sister brought up that they were not going to kiss until they got married.  My brother and I both must have had some sort of astounded look on our faces as she quickly said, “It was his call actually.”  My brother and I both looked at her and one of us jokingly said, “Is he gay?”

Now it’s not my intention today to get into homosexuality per se.  Not because I’m afraid of that conversation (in fact I have a lot of thoughts about that), but because that isn’t the point of this post.  Neither is my point really about the decision my brother-in-law made. I’ve talked about kissing before, but almost oddly I’ve never really done a post on “how far is too far” in the two years I’ve been writing here.  I have a post on fleeing sexual immorality coming soon.

What I want to talk about today though is how we think of single men who are living virtuously.

Our current culture obviously thinks everyone should sleep with anyone.  But our evangelical culture is different, they think everyone is sleeping with anyone and even they find it weird when they aren’t.  The funny thing is, the Church’s answer to singleness is “Don’t Have Sex” but when someone doesn’t, it shocks even them.

We have a totally warped view of Christian men.  It starts with the assumption that we are all (all men including Christians) driven primarily by lust.  In a sense the message is that the truest thing about us is that we, if not held in check, will have sex.

But when a man, actually lives a virtuous life then he’s sort of weird.  And if he does it into his 30’s then he is really different.  Between what our culture says, and how we handle it as evangelicals, it’s no wonder that eventually men become what we tell them they are.

The older you get as a man, if you stay a virgin, the more you are viewed as, well, different.

This plays out in a lot of different ways.

Take for example a man who may be called to celibacy.  Since we have no teaching on celibacy and what it is, (and I mean absolutely none as in nada, as in I’ve never in 23 years of church heard one sermon, attended one seminar, men’s retreat, heard a podcast, or read one book), we view those called to it as “different”.  We think for example that a man called to celibacy is someone who, because he has “the gift”, doesn’t struggle with wanting to be with women.  And wait. . . you know who else doesn’t struggle with that . . . men who are attracted to men. . . hmmmm.

The reality is that men, especially early on in their call to celibacy, might very well be very attracted to women.  It’s just not their call to get married.  But we have no reference point for that.  Because we don’t, we don’t know how to encourage them, and we certainly don’t know how to help a man determine if he is called to it.

Now a lot of this can be in our own heads, but it’s not only there.  I’ve led a ministry that reaches out to high school kids for almost 20 years.  When I was younger and single I never thought about it.  But as I reached my early thirties, it creeped into my head, “I wonder what people think when I as a single 33 year old talk to a group of high school girls, or for that matter guys?”  In our environment I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought it.

The problem is that when we see a thirty plus year old single guy, we want to put them into a neat little category.  Here are a few

First we assume sin

  • He is a player who won’t settle down.
  • He is struggling with secret sin – porn, habitual masturbation and the like

If he is virtuous in actions then

  • He is really nice guy who doesn’t have what it takes with women
  • He is too focussed on work/ministry.
  • He lives with his parents and or plays video games all night
  • He is attracted to men

Now any of those could of course be true.  But should we really assume any of them? Should our only answers to singles be based on that assumption?

I want to say a lot more about this in the coming days.  But we need to change two major assumptions.

  1. Just because a person is celibate does not mean they are not “attracted” to women and
  2. Men are not inherently controlled by lust

If we don’t change these two, at the end of the day we are actually pushing single men towards them.

So church let me ask you this.  When you see a 35 year old single, never married man, what first comes into your head?

Sexual Immorality Leads Away From Marriage

C.S Lewis once said, “It would seem Our Lord Finds our desires not to strong but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he can not imagine what is meant by a holiday at sea.  We are far too easily pleased.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to what we have done with sex and marriage in our culture.  We have created a mess.

The problem is not desire.  The problem is that when we try to fill the desire the wrong way (not just sexual desire), it get’s in the way of the right way of fulfilling it.

Sixty years ago 60% of people aged 18-29 were married.  Today only 20% of that same demographic has ever been married.  That is a dramatic change. We are typically entering puberty earlier (there’s not space here to go into why) and yet waiting longer to get married.  So where as we used to say, “just wait 5 years or so to be married”, now we basically say, “just wait 15 years to have sex”.  Thats crazy!  The problem is cyclical because in one sense it’s harder to wait that long, but in another sense because people are giving up and meeting that desire other ways, it is making people have less desire to get married.

Paul writes in 1st Corinthians that if you want to have sex, get married.  He basically says, “rather than burn with unmet desire, get married and meet it the right way.”  But this is a far cry from where we are at today, even in the Church.

We mess this up a lot of different ways and none of them help us when we are single or even later when we get married.

One plan often offered is to kill the desire.  This is where we just basically tell people sex is bad, don’t have it.  We may not say it but we essentially end up leading people there.  This is a horrible idea because desire for sex isn’t bad  Being controlled by it (or any other desire) is but the desire for sex and intimacy is a huge part of the reason for marriage. Worst of all, if I get married, I won’t be able to just flip a switch that all of a sudden makes sex good.

But more often what we do is go out and meet our desire for sex in some other way. Sometimes this means having sex outside of marriage. This does not lead down a path to marriage.  That’s not to say that people who do this don’t get married but it doesn’t increase the chances.  This is why so many people who live together end up not getting married.  Playing house and being married are not the same thing.  Sex before covenant is never beneficial.

But the biggest problem in the church right now is what I call Lazy Sexual Immorality. This is where I don’t meet my sexual need with another person at all.  Instead I just watch, read or think about someone else doing it and “meet” my need that way.  Tony Campolo once said, “If you are going to sin, at least do it boldly.”  These are the opposite of bold. They are gutless.

If you are under 30 you have seen internet porn.  It’s just the truth.  You have.  The average age a person first sees it right now is 11.  Read that again.  Now this screws us up in all sorts of ways.  But fantasy and habitual masturbation are right behind it.  They are all ways that we can meet our needs without having to “involve” someone else.  And they are killing us.  I have a friend who says that every guy thinks marriage is going to be a porn movie and every girl thinks it’s going to be a romance novel.  It’s not either.  It should be better.  But that is what we are expecting, and when it doesn’t happen we bail.

When we meet our sexual desire outside of marriage it leads us away from marriage.  Either we get our desire met, and therefore don’t want to make the sacrifices to meet them in the right way, or we get wrapped up in our shame and guilt and therefore either can’t engage the real thing or feel like we don’t now “deserve” it.  Usually some sick twisted combination of all of the above.

It’s a nasty cycle and a lot of people are in it.  I’ve been in it many times in one form or another.  Fortunately, you don’t have to stay in it.  I’m going to write more on that soon.  But for today the question really is this: What are you doing with your sexual desire?  How are you meeting it?  Do you see how that affects you from engaging the real thing?

 

Unmet Desire Is Good

When I was a kid, I really, really loved basketball.  I wanted to be good.  I would pretend to be the Missouri Tigers in the driveway.  You know the drill – down two with time running out, you shoot, and. . . if you missed – well you were fouled.  Haha.

In high school I wanted to win, and I wanted to be the star.  Now the truth is I was good but not a star, but that didn’t keep me from working at it.  I would practice a lot.  I bought the “strength shoes” to improve my vertical. I did endless drills.

I had a good not great career.  But I loved the whole thing.  But what drove me was the chance to win.  I had a desire to win.  It wasn’t always met – but it drove me to be better.

We have a huge problem in our culture and it has a crazy impact on us as singles.  We think that unmet desire is always bad.  If I have a desire, then it should be met – right now!  This is America damn it!  Meet My Desire!

Desire is good.  In fact in Psalm 37:4 God promises to give us desires (not give us what we want, but give us what to want).  Desire drives us to do incredible things.  Desire makes us want to grow, to change, to become better.  Without desire we would be dead.

Desire drives us to act.  Always. The question becomes where do we let us drive us.

We all have a desire for love. Now obviously we need to take our desire for love to Jesus first.  This is critical for everything else in life.  The best part is that God will meet us and He does love us.  In fact he is the only person who can meet that desire.

But what about other desires.  Can God meet our desire for sex?  Can God be our spouse? Can God physically hold our hand or give us physical intimacy?  No.  And yet God created sex.  He created us with the desire for physical and emotional intimacy and partnership with another person.  That’s awesome . . . and frustrating!

So what do we do with unmet sexual/intimacy desire?

We can go out and meet that base desire by having sex with someone.  I mean we have needs and they need to be met.  A lot of us don’t want the work involved with that sin though so we settle for what I call “Lazy Immorality”.  By this I mean, porn, masturbation, romance novels, whatever.  (I’ll define this more soon).

We can also just try to kill the desire so we don’t have to feel it.  Just focus on work, or school, or a hobby.  The more extreme the better.  Whatever works.  Ministry works well here.  Just focus on other stuff.  Shove that desire down deep.

We can get religious.  Just be content where you are.  We can drop in some misused Pauline quotes.  The favorite is in Philippians 4 where Paul says, “I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation.”  So just don’t want.  “Just Be” is how we take that.  But that isn’t really what Paul is getting at.  The “secret” isn’t to kill desire.  It’s not to be ok with whatever.  Paul gives us the secret in the next verse – through Jesus “who gives me strength”.

Paul had learned that regardless of what he felt, Jesus would meet him and sustain it.  His identity, joy, or overall life was not wrapped up in unmet desire or circumstance. That is the contentment Paul was talking about.  He wasn’t saying, “Don’t feel.  Don’t try to make things different. Stay as you are it’s fine.”  No Paul was saying Jesus was bigger than all of that.  He is saying let whatever your situation is let it drive you to Jesus.  I don’t need to kill my desire or have it met the wrong way.  I need to walk straight into unmet desire – with Jesus.

We can’t just tell people to not worry about it.  We don’t do this in other areas.  The church doesn’t say to the poor – just stay poor and be content.  It doesn’t say to the sick, just stay sick and be content.  No, we step up and step in.  We act.  (Or at least we are supposed to).  All the while pointing out that no matter what the circumstances Jesus has to be desired first.

The truth is that these desires we have are natural and good, and from God.  We need to engage Him and we need to move forward.  It’s hard.  Unmet desire is a part of life to the full.  We need to feel the tension.  It drives us to the things that God has for us – if we let it.

What do you do with your unmet desire?