Saturday, July 11, 2015

What do you desire? Who do you desire?

Desire is constitutive of our humanity. We all have desires. For the most part, we order our lives so as to get what we desire in the belief that is what will make us happy. It’s a very safe observation that what every human being desires most deeply is to be happy, meaning to be completely fulfilled, to be sated and satisfied. We walk the path of desire seeking that for which we most deeply long. Most of the time, perhaps only after years or decades, you realize that a particular desire is not going to deliver on what it promised when you began pursuing it. Stated simply, these paths are dead ends, or only satisfy briefly and then evaporate. Nonetheless, we can’t help ourselves, we continue to desire. Even should we grow cynical, believing that happiness is unattainable and our desires are nothing but a cruel cosmic, or evolutionary, joke that ultimately show us that our existence itself is dead end, our desire persists.

Today on The Gospel Coalition website I read a post by Matt Smethurst, “20 Quotes from Rosaria Butterfield’s New Book on Sexual identity”. I appreciate Rosaria’s witness so very much. I read her autobiographical account of her conversion - The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert very quickly. One of Mr Smethurst’s 20 quotes is this one:
How do we make an identity out of temptation? By collapsing what you desire with who you are. By collapsing what tempts you or what trips you up with who you will become. . . . God’s revealed purpose for my identity always nails me to his cross
Before proceeding, I want to make it clear that (I think) I agree with her, even while refusing to give up on desire.

I think in making that statement she presumes, rightly, that many of our deepest desires are disordered and have been distorted. We look for love in all the wrong places. This is consistent with my understanding of being a broken person living in a fallen world. What is evil is not having desires. Our disordered and distorted desires are temptations primarily because, by pursuing them, we seek what they will never and can never give us.

It seems to me the problem with our desires is that they lead us to seek fulfillment in other human beings, in things, or experiences, none which can bear the weight of our need. I will readily admit, as almost every honest man should, that, while heterosexual, my sexual desires are often disordered. I don’t lust after a person, but for what I want that person to do for me and to me. All I have to do, really, to snap out of it is ask myelf, "Then what?" Our ultimate desire is not for a what, but for a who, a person: "Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring."

The axis around which the entire teaching, or method, of Msgr Luigi Giussani revolves is that the human heart is a desire for God, a longing for infinite and eternal Love. Our true desire doesn't collapse into our identity, but reveals us to ourselves. So, rather than repudiate desire, we need to be ruthlessly honest about what it is we really want. Once we have some inkling that what we long for is infinite and eternal we are no longer willing to settle for cheap substitutes, for what will never and can never satisfy.

God only wills and seeks to bring about what is good for us. God does this by working providentially through the circumstances of our lives; grace builds on nature. So we must be open to God's grace and when we recognize it not merely cooperate with it, but pursue it with everything we have. But what might this look like? It depends on your circumstances. Here is something I found recently, relevant to the subject at hand, that I think makes it more concrete: "How the Gospel ended My Same Sex Relationship."

God's decrees are not arbitrary. He gives them only not only to help us, but to complete us. God - who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- created us, redeemed us (justified us, assuming we've accepted His free gift of redemption by faith), and now wants to sanctify us. God desires us to attain "to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming" (Eph 4:13-14). Rosaria is absolutely correct, this cannot occur without honesty or without a struggle, which is the pain of forsaking the ephemeral for the lasting. Jesus, I trust in You.

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