Setting Desire Free

One of the recurring themes in many of our conversations is the appropriate place for desire in our spiritual journey. My bias is well-known and obvious. We have desires, dreams and passions that lie within our souls that have been placed there by our Father. They are part of what it means for us to share our Father's likeness as 'image-bearers'. But we struggle to trust these desires. In part because of the tension we all feel with sinful desires. How do we know the difference between a god-given desire and a flesh-based desire? And on the surface it can feel very self-serving to pursue the desires of our heart. So rather than learning to discern our Father's voice in following our desires we find it easier to simply shut them down altogether. We stop dreaming. We no longer feel passionate nor alive. We struggle to find our 'calling' or our 'place in God's Kingdom'.

Part of the miracle of redemption under the New Covenant is the gift of a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27). And now because of the indwelling presence of Christ we can learn to trust our heart and it's desires. As I fight for the hearts of men one of my consistent appeals is to explore and experience the desires of their heart as redeemed sons of God.

But are there times when the freedom of pursuing our desires is not possible? Can we still live well in the present moment without our desires fulfilled?

I've been reading Letters and Papers from Prison which is a collection of letters Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his family and friends from prison in the years leading to his execution. Obviously all the desires of Dietrich's heart were silenced the day he was arrested. Although his desires were imprisoned he found the freedom to live well in the present. Arguably, Bonhoeffer's greatest legacy was crafted during a season when the desires of his heart were muted!

Reflect upon Dietrich's words to his close friend Eberhard Bethge from prison in March of 1944 (he would be executed a year later in April 1945):

"There is a wholeness about the fully grown man which enables him to face an existing situation squarely. He may have his longings, but he keeps them out of sight, and somehow masters them; and the more he has to overcome in order to live fully in the present, the more he will have the respect and confidence of his fellows, especially the younger ones, who are still on the road that he has already traveled. Desires to which we cling closely can easily prevent us from being what we ought to be and can be; and on the other hand, desires repeatedly mastered for the sake of present duty make us richer. Lack of desire is poverty. Almost all the people I find in my present surroundings (i.e., prison) cling to their own desires, and so have no interest in others; they no longer listen, and they're incapable of loving their neighbor. I think that even in this place we ought to live as if we had no wishes and no future, and just be our true selves. It's remarkable then how others come to rely on us, confide in us, and let us talk to them (pp.233-234)."

What a timely word. The lack of desire is indeed poverty. In the abundance of all we've been given in Christ we are called to freely explore and fully experience the desire of our hearts. But when our present surroundings prevent us from living freely out of our desires, we can live just as freely and just as fully in the present moment.

Fighting for your hearts,

Gary Franklin