The last time I was getting ready to board a plane, I waited in line to be checked for weapons and explosives. As my luggage went through the scanning machine, I wondered how much one of those machines cost. (One hundred and fifty thousand dollars, I discovered.) When I spoke later at a high school in North Philly, I was met by the same expensive machine and procedure. And these machines are being installed in more and more places.
Apparently we want it all in America, and it’s costly to maintain. We’re entitled to all the weaponry we want, but we also want to make sure that these weapons don’t get into “the wrong hands” in schools and airplanes and courts. (Never mind the police and government agents who carry there—they’re keeping us “safe.”) My Dad tells me that now the Walmart in his rural town sells out of ammunition on the same day it comes in. (Does that really have no connection to the record-high homicide rate in my city?)
In some ways, I want it all too. I used up my vacation time this year to take an epic road trip. It was filled with some of my favorite things: canyons, rivers, campfires, starry skies, tribal lands, the open road, my funny and handsome husband and two adventurous kids, and no email. What a gift. And yet, the discoveries of this grand time didn’t totally eclipse my disappointment that I’d miss out on that annual trip to the mountains with my in-laws this year, and that week at my friends’ cottage.
You may think that I’m comparing apples and oranges by talking about gun control and vacation choices in the same breath. Probably. But the common denominator is that we human beings generally want to have our cake and eat it too. Even grateful people have a lot of capacity for wanting. And instead of ranting about national/corporate greed here like I often do, I’m noticing that the wanting is good. (It’s the unexamined taking and eating that causes problems.) We’re born with desire, and we get it from the Creator.
Jesus was known to ask, “What do you want?” And he also said, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the fullest.” (John 10:10). I don’t think “the fullest” is really about endless vacations or whatever promises to bring us protection, power, or escape. I think he’s talking about what many of my friends and I really want: to make a difference in the world, love and belonging that’s not based on our accomplishments, looks, or bank accounts, peace with God and others, and actual joy—and Jesus is acknowledging himself as the Way. Incredibly, what we really want is free; it just requires our ongoing openness and will to show up.
My friend Lauren wrote a song/prayer to God that states “I will grow in Your growth; I will long in Your longing.” That’s good news. Our longing can find a home in God’s great longing—the One who wants it all for our sake, and offers it up. Our desires don’t need to unconsciously run us around or be repressed/controlled out of fear that we’ll be continually disappointed. They can be known and touched by the Spirit who “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Great post, Rachel. The paradox is still true- to receive life to the fullest, one must be more about giving than receiving/consuming.
I think the Buddhists were on to something when they said that freedom from desire is freedom from suffering, but the best translation I’ve come across is: Shit Happens.
Yes, it does, Jim. I can see how people want to be free of desire to be free of pain, but I just don’t know that it’s possible without becoming a robot of sorts. I don’t want to be a robot, and I don’t want to miss out on transformation. When life is painful, I have choices: avoid/numb/repress/deny it–which doesn’t really work–or lean into Jesus and be open to growth.