Lust, Prayer & Pain

(Now that the night has cleared my mind a bit and the endorphins are zooming through my bloodstream:)

Is it possible to lust spiritually? At one point (I think around the finger passing Fairyland) I felt really convicted about how a lot of the ways I ‘wisely’ and ‘cautiously’ choose romantic interests are really just based on physical appearance. A good while later I eventually got to the question: Is it possible, and if so is it wrong, to love God just for his Body?

I’m sorry if that’s taking the metaphor a bit far, or if it’s offensive, but I think it’s a fair question. The human body is an important and integral part of a person, but it is just a part. You can tell a lot about someone from their outer appearance, and not all these things are shallow. The way a person smiles and laughs, their body language, to some extent their health and how much they care for their own, personal God given earthen vessel. In the same way, we are told that the Church, the body of which Christ is the head, shows the world much of God and Christ. The hands are to do good, the feet to carry the gospel of peace, arms to hold the lonely and free the oppressed; the Body is all a great many people will ever see of God, and so its appearance is of the utmost importance.

But what about for those of us who believe and seek to know Christ?  If I care only for a woman’s body, it is considered lust. I am deeply convicted at my behavior towards my God who came so far, so low, to be with me. I think I am doing him a favor by smoothing over hard questions like: Why is it so difficult for me to feel his Presence? And why do so many prayer times feel like one way conversations? Instead I depend on his body, (i.e. you guys) to fill the void. But how could you? To go back to the lust analogy, how can sex take the place of intimacy? Of persevering, honest and tender Love? In the same way (I think, not that I really know anything about any of this relationship stuff), that sex has a beautiful and important place in a healthy and God-glorifying union, fellowship with believers and service in the Church is an integral aspect of a believer’s walk with Christ. But it is not the replacement for a deep, disruptive, redemptive, intimate and regenerative knowledge and communion with the living God. How did I come to believe that I was doing God a favor by not coming to him expectantly. Aren’t we told to expect from him all that which we always knew we wanted, but always knew we did not have? Christ was denied the deep knowledge and intimacy with his father on the cross, that we might have it. He was shut out, so that we would be welcomed in. Into his house and into his arms. Isn’t this the whole point?

I listened to Tim Keller’s sermon on personal prayer last night and at one point he said that whatever it is that dominates our mind the most, what our mind most easily and quickly turns to, is our god (I.e. what we depend on for meaning, happiness, security, etc…) This was convicting.

A couple days ago I was struck by a thought when I was struggling to love someone I knew I was called to love (or at least be more warm and patient towards). I knew she had a need, and I immediately recoiled from fulfilling it (don’t worry, it wasn’t life and death, it was somewhat superficial… I think. It was just that she needed to use a laptop for something.). Perhaps this was from fear that she would be dependent in the future, or because it would take time and energy that I just didn’t want to give. The thought that hit me was: what if, instead of this grumpy and hard to love person, it was a female I was attracted to that had this need? Man, the reaction would have been COMPLETELY the opposite. Even if I didn’t have my own computer, I would be searching high and low for any way to fulfill that need… And not even necessarily for someone I really loved or truly cared about, just some girl… This was convicting.

So I think that’s a pretty decent way to switch perspectives on a situation. Just replace the person in question with someone else, who relates to you in a different way. For instance: In terms of prayer I was thinking about how Jesus calls us Friend. We’re his friends because he let’s us know what he’s up to. And I feel like that’s a pretty decent definition of a friend; i.e. someone you want to share your life with.  While I was running (mind you, it’s past midnight and in Oakland) I was thinking about how I would feel if I got mugged. I mean, they wouldn’t really be able to take anything, all I had on me were keys and the clothes I was wearing. I was thinking about how I might say something wry and funny like, “How about if you can keep up with me for these last 2 miles, I’ll give you whatever’s in my pockets!” Mostly because I’m pretty confident that they wouldn’t be able to keep up with me, especially with my adrenaline pumping, haha. My next thought was, WOULDN’T THAT BE SUUUUUUCH A GREAT STORY TO SHARE WITH MY FRIENDS?!

So the analogy here is, if I am always thinking of interesting things to tell my friends or to blog about, why can’t I have that sort of rapport with the Lord, my friend? At the best of times, I can actually smile to myself and give a mental high five to Jesus when I can see what is probably his providence in my life. But usually I’m honestly just not all that excited to sit there and hang out with God and Jesus. But if I was and if I could just tap into that Access and that joy that is inseparable from his presence! The stories we could tell! This is convicting.

Finally, (and thanks for reading this far if you have!) I just want you to know that I don’t really like running all that much. It hurts and it makes you breathe hard, both of which are pretty far away on the spectrum from the things I like most, i.e. eating and staying in bed until it’s warm outside. But tonight I was thinking that running, like most things worth doing in life and most of the more meaningful and stretching experiences we have, hurts while you’re going through it but you almost never regret it afterwards. On the contrary, the endorphins rush around and the ache and tiredness you experience are almost pleasant. I am never more aware of the fact that I have good, strong, beautifully designed legs and feet than when they have carried me long distances and they are sore from the effort.

I think that people are made to feel things. Is that a pretty deep declaration? When we don’t feel good things, we even sometimes prefer to feel bad things than to feel nothing at all. Tired legs remind me that I have legs, and broken hearts remind us that we have hearts, and that at some point, they are meant to not be broken anymore. Life is painful sometimes, but life is also pleasant and exuberantly happy sometimes. The gospel is meant to give us abundant life, Keller says that if we meditate on the truth long enough and intensely enough our hearts will melt. I have hope that my heart can be undone and rebuilt by an explosive vitality that only He can give. If Jesus wept, it is my desire to love enough to weep for those who die and are dying, even if I know that they will soon be alive again. From the same depths that hold such tears, comes forth the bold and earthshaking laughter that smiles in the face of death.

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~ by justinhong on December 14, 2010.

4 Responses to “Lust, Prayer & Pain”

  1. This is awesome.

  2. agreed. this was a really good read. thank you for sharing, justin.

  3. i liked what you said about pain reminding us of Better things.

    also, yes that would be an awesome story.

  4. […] Shoulder; Small Creatures, part II; Small Creatures, part III, September 24 & November 29 13) Lust, Prayer & Pain, December […]

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