FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Just Give It Up

First Things will never be the same without Richard Neuhaus. His proto-blog at the end of every issue provided great insight—and, admittedly, some juicy quotes about Catholic doctrine for those of us who still oppose it. But here’s an excerpt from a recent First Things blog article that I have to take a little exception to (though I invite interaction from Touchstone‘s David Mills):

Our eldest, then about two years old, one day announced “I want . . .” but did not finish the sentence. My wife and I waited for her to tell us what she wanted — to be picked up and rocked? a cup of milk? her stuffed bear? — but again she said only “I want” and let her voice trail off. She said it a third time, still sounding equally unsure about what she wanted. And then, with a look of enlightenment on her face, said in a loud, firm voice, “I want!”

There, I thought, was the fallen human condition expressed. We are creatures of ravenous, indiscriminate desire. We want this and we want that, but most of all, We Want.

Limiting desire is a common theme in Protestant preaching, too. But it’s simply wrong. Wanting isn’t bad. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst. It’s the object that matters: we ought to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

It’s hackneyed by now, but C. S. Lewis’ comment in the “The Weight of Glory”—a sermon (or “sermon”) I think about often—is apropos:

Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

The First Things blog article was pointing out, on its way to an endorsement of Lent, that we are too tightly attached to earthly things. Amen. But the answer is not going without coffee for 40 days (hence giving you a more ravenous desire for it, as the article shows!). It’s asking God to graciously give us a taste, a heart, a mind for divine things. For heavenly things. Where Christ sits at the right hand of God.

I encourage you to do that with me right now.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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