I’ve been thinking about feelings lately…grief, pleasure, suffering, desire, love. Our pastor Louie talks about the decades of life. The twenties are the dreaming decade, the thirties, disillusionment, and the forties we come to a fork in the road where we can grow deeper or disengage. Of course, there is some leeway in this. For me, disillusionment was sprinkled throughout my twenties and thirties, but life altering disillusionment and a fork in the road hit me hard in my mid-thirties after a personal tragedy. Now in my forties, I have found myself many, many times at a fork in the road. Why can’t you come to that place only once, choose deeper, and get on with your life? But it doesn’t work that way, the battle is fiercer than that.
When I stand at the crossroads, the question I am facing is whether or not as a Christian I am really willing to live as a disciple of Christ. If I am living as a disciple of Christ then my character is being transformed and I need to say no to death and yes to life.
I often listen to sermons and lectures to help keep me going on the right path because there is always the pull to go opposite of where I should. I heard Ravi Zacharias say, “(1.)Anything that refreshes you without distracting you from, diminishing, or destroying your final goal is a legitimate pleasure. (2.) Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure for you. (3.) Any pleasure, however good, if not kept in balance will distort reality or destroy appetite."
Ummm. Ouch, Ravi, that really gets to the point.
Let’s define what pleasure is. I think that maybe when people hear the word pleasure, they may think only in terms of sexual pleasure, but Ravi said, "anything". So, okay… "anything" could mean the pleasure received from telling someone off, gossiping, over-eating, having wealth, control, and power. "Anything" could mean the pleasure from the pursuit of a profession, education, a specific kind of lifestyle; these things can also get in the way of our final goal. Desires and pleasures are good when they are kept under God. Really, who wants to live life without them? Not me.
So then what happens when I stand very close, face to face with a desire that feels like life, even though I know deep down going in that direction is death? There’s the fork. It would feel good to fulfill my desire and satisfy my pleasure. It is extremely difficult to walk away; to walk away without saying what I want or doing what I want, and turning my back on illegitimate pleasure. And I am for sure not going to walk away if I have not defined what my final goal is.
What is my final goal? My goal is putting into practice the double love command. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus can change the way I see others. He can change the way I see myself.
Dallas Willard said that "love is the intention to do good." If satisfying my desire and pleasure does not do good to God, others, and myself then I am not showing love. And if I am not loving well then I am not living as a disciple of Christ. So I walk away from disengaging and toward depth because of love.
Although, it is not enough to know all of this, to listen to sermons and take notes. It is only through personally experiencing the presence of God that I will have his strength to choose pleasure that brings me closer to him and desire for myself what he desires for me; and what he desires for me is himself. I have felt Jesus with me, heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit, watched God move in my life. I have experienced the power of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. I have received his forgiveness and tasted his grace. I do not want to go through this life without him and yet, I am still enticed to swim in a deep pool of selfishness. Oh, God, I know there is an enemy who wants to convince me that you are not who you say you are. Help me cling to Truth.
One of the sentences in my notes is from Dallas Willard, "Fruit comes slowly." This is me wrestling, struggling, and making mistakes every time I come to another fork. I am a broken, hurting, messy woman. If you find yourself in that place, I open my arms and embrace you. Come on over and we can hang out. A group of broken, hurting, messy people struggling to be disciples of Christ, can make a difference in this world...just like those first broken, hurting, messy struggling disciples of Christ.
Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known. -J.R.R. Tolkien