The Christian message is not the elimination of desire but the transformation of desire. The overcoming of destructive desire and developing the inward reality of right desire is what we are after and what we can experience as our life is soaked in Jesus and his way.
As I have been working through my Christian Spirituality course, I have been introduced to many incredible people of historic Christianity. While their writings and practices in regards to living a disciplined life are very helpful and challenging to me, the use of near stoic language can be a little disturbing. Even though I am a pretty calm guy, not prone to emotional outbursts, I do like reserving the right to emote. That is why I appreciated the observation of Richard Foster in Longing for God where he responded to the idea of “apatheia.” That is where the individual aims to live completely removed from any want or desire. Many desert monastics would eat just enough food to survive, deprive themselves from sleep, and so on. Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
This is not the aim of the Christian message, as Foster rightly pointed out. Christianity is about transformation, a righting of our desire. It is about being aligned with the desires of God, being molded ever so slowly into the image of Christ. The Apostle Peter put it another way, writing, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'” (I Peter 1:14)
It is not about being some killjoy who is dour or in a constant cloud of contemplation. It is about a deep, overflowing love that is rooted in Christ. That is why I like the idea of a rooted theology, where we are tied inextricably to the life giving power of Jesus. As the Church moves into the period of Lent this month, I would encourage you (and myself!) to use fasting from things we like (whether it is chocolate, alcohol, Facebook, or Doritos) in order to bring ourselves closer in alignment to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to transform your desires to be closer to Him. At least consider it. Let’s make it a joint venture!