Questioning our Desire

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Hope deferred makes the heart sick,but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
Proverbs 13:19

 

Disappointment.
It can crush the soul and ruin us for a time. This kind of heart sickness generates its own dis-ease and apprehension. It’s an internal crisis that ripples into every relationship.  I remember a season in leadership and life over a decade ago when “hope deferred” felt like the absolute loss of a dream — even the death of a dream. I thought I was finished, undone, and of no use! God met me through that season by reshaping the desires of my heart — particularly God reshaped my understanding of those dreams. Essential to my own growth, even my own survival, through that season was the willingness to acknowledge and enter into the pain of these unmet and shattered expectations.

 

A desire fulfilled.
The wisdom teacher in Proverbs says of a desire fulfilled, “It’s a tree of life” and “It’s sweet to the soul.” Sounds like success and perhaps it is. But when our desires sit only on the surface of production, achievement, or the applause of people it doesn’t last. It is not a tree of life and cannot be a tree of life for us. Sweet to the soul — only for a moment. So what kind of desires fulfilled can be a tree of life? I believe these tree of life desires must be rooted in relationships and a deep purpose planted in our hearts by God. Love and the delight of God must be at the root of “tree of life” desires.

 

To turn away.
The teacher uses the phrase “to turn away” identifying a capacity to discern between our desires. A fool refuses “to turn away” from an evil desire. The fool, considers such deferral and refusal to be “an abomination.” In other words a fool considers it to be the last thing in the world she or he would consider doing — choosing not to fulfill a desire.  Ugh — foolish moments. We’ve all had our foolish moments.

The danger looms when such foolishness becomes the habituated pattern of our lives and the very nature of our character. Its important that we learn to discerning the evil in desires. The desire may be wrong in the eyes of God — it may be a perversion of something He made to be good. The desire may be inappropriate for the nature of our relationships. Or perhaps the desire may have to be deferred for a season because of other commitments in this season of life,fulfilling the desire would actually wreck havoc. This is a timing issue and is truly at the heart of wisdom.

I have a theory about spiritual formation and the seasons of our lives.  Perhaps each major developmental movement from being a child to young adult, from young adult to adulthood and then the seasons of re-evaluated adulthood coming almost every decade, must be accompanied by a renewed commitment to the process and an expansion of our capacity to discern and sift desire. Maybe we must relearn aspects of this process over and over because of the changes that take place in us and in the world around us. Here’s my process:

Naming: Acknowledge the desire.

Binding: Discern the desire’s impact in relationships – to God, to self, to people, and to the stuff of earth; reshape and limit accordingly as a disciple of Jesus in the grace and truth of His Lordship. This may actually be a binding process that comes from God as He brings healing to us in regard to our desires.

 

Loosing: Take steps to move toward a desire fulfilled. This is probably not a straight line as it may involve: prayer, conversations, partnering, a long series of small steps in the right direction, and then absolute surrender to God for Him to accomplish something that’s actually bigger than we are and beyond our capacities.

 

Personal Reflection — What do you think?
Have you had any experience with these two proverbs?
Have you gone through a naming, binding, and loosing process before? What have you learned in the process?
How has Jesus redeemed deferred desires?
Are there desires that you have “nailed to the cross?”
How has God shown up to do more than you thought possible?
Are there desires that you have been ignoring?
Are there desires you have been gracefully fulling with Jesus for the glory of God?

The Folly of Collecting Wise Sayings

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1 The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2To know wisdom and instruction,

to understand words of insight,

3to receive instruction in wise dealing,

in righteousness, justice, and equity;

4to give prudence to the simple,

knowledge and discretion to the youth—

5Let the wise hear and increase in learning,

and the one who understands obtain guidance,

6to understand a proverb and a saying,

the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:1-7

 

I enjoy proverbs and enjoy reading collections of proverbs from a variety of cultures. I’ve been making my way through a collection of proverbs and sayings from Haiti.

Here’s one from Hidden Meanings, the Truth and Secret in Haiti’s Creole Proverbs by Wally R. Turnbull:

Figi ki vann nan credo se pa li ki ranmase kob la.

The face that sells on credit is not the one that collects the debt.

Meaning: One changes personalities when collecting a debt.

 

So true.

There is a problem or danger for the collector of wise sayings and its noted in the first chapter of The Proverbs in the Bible. As a collection of wise sayings from a variety of authors within Israel’s wisdom literature much of the work is attributed to Solomon. Solomon is aware that simply knowing proverbs and having them in your head is not enough. Wisdom is relational; its a mix of knowledge: content and observations about relationships in life. Solomon contends that the first relationship to  establish wisdom as a “knowingness” in our lives is a relationship with God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

So you could collect and memorize all the sayings, but if you live without the  fear of the Lord you will lack knowledge.

The fear of the Lord.

What is it?

An abiding and disturbing sense.

An abiding sense of the bigness, mysteriousness, “I will not be controlled by you-ness” of God?

An abiding sense of being seen, known, examined by, measured by, cared for, and even loved by God?

An abiding sense that God does not miss a thing about us?

An abiding sense that God enters into relationship with us?

An abiding sense that God is God an I am not.

Collecting proverbs will never provide the fear of the Lord. However, the Bible’s Proverbs contend that people who have an abiding and disturbing sense of God will love, treasure, and apply wisdom.

We have wisdom from God.

 

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30God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:30-31

The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time among first century Greeks. They were keen to have wisdom. In fact they had competing “schools” of wisdom or systems of thought. People might appeal to one or the other for their “way of life.” In Christ, you too have wisdom. We all know the appeal of having a group, leader, or school that gives us a certain respect or prestige. But now, you have the very wisdom of God for us: Jesus Christ.

The writer of many Proverbs in the Old Testament declared that the beginning of wisdom is the fear/respect/love of God. So now, our boast isn’t that we are of a certain school of thought, or political party, or in a certain group of Christians. Now, our boast is that we are actually IN Christ Jesus. He is our wisdom.  May you value Jesus above all other relationships at the core of who you are.

Prevailing with Friends

IMG_82329Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.   Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Don’t go it alone.

Friendships have wisdom in a world where trouble is sure to come. We can deepen friendships to form alliances with a vision of prevailing. The greatest battles ahead are not imaginary tales, video games, or simulated contests of strength. Rather, the battles for our heart-one with Jesus, our character-forming to match His and our integrity-in thought and deed are ahead.

Will you prevail in your faith? Will you have a prevailing pursuit of Jesus? Will you have a life that finishes well? The likelihood goes up when you have a circle of friends, two or three others who share the Jesus-journey with you.

Do you have a circle of three?

Have you expressed your thanks for them recently?

Are you taking steps to invite others in?

Or are you going it alone?

Woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

But… two will withstand, a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Reading the signs

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5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

8It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:5-8
I recently saw this collection of signs at UBC. I laughed. Park, don’t stop, prepare to stop!

When the signs are confusing we have a decision making challenge. Sometimes the many voices available to us echo in the chambers of our heart… and we are not sure what do next. Everyone will have an opinion of what you should do and be. They may even seek to be the voice of God. Consideration and discernment is required.

The default in our society is “just be true to your heart.”

That is not what Christianity proposes. Rather we are called to be true to Jesus Christ.

We must learn to read the signs in light of who Jesus is and what He is doing in our lives. He is changing our heart. He can create a path for us even as we step forward not seeing everything, but just looking for Him. Trusting Jesus will lead us into a different kind of wisdom. Trusting Jesus will lead us into the wisdom of trust and obey, into the wisdom of dependence on Him, into the wisdom of our identity in Him and into the wisdom of love.