What do you want? This is the primal question within the heart of every human being who has ever walked the earth, yet we somehow find it difficult to ask it to and for ourselves. Doing so would be selfish, would it not? We often hear it said that the Christian life should be one void of all want and desire – that it is a journey of detachment and content with that which one has been given from God. He alone gives and takes away as He wishes; therefore we shall not want or be left wanting.
Desire. Such a foul word. It reeks of lust and reminds us of temptation, leaving a bad taste in one’s mouth long after it has been spoken. It was desire that the serpent used to lure our first parents into apostasy, and it has been the fallen fruit of every single lie, theft and war waged in every generation ever since. But are we truly seeing all of the picture here, or is there more to the taboo than this?
Indeed it is true that God alone is the source of all that we have been given. Yes, and all that has been given is for Him. Faith tells us that God alone knows and supplies our every need, so it is only logical that anything else would be unnecessary. However, I also know that I have received some the most important things in my life only after asking for them. I am fairly certain that these things would have been withheld from me had I refused to admit to myself that I desired to have them. To name them.
No, I’m not talking about any worldly riches. God knows I don’t have those (though I am grateful and blessed). He has seen the inside of both my wallet and my soul, yet it is the latter that concerns me the most (though it would be nice to have the former filled as well).
Truth and beauty and mercy and grace – these are the things that we need in order to live. But these are both dependent upon and needed by love, thus they simply cannot operate apart from each other. They exist in and for and among themselves. It is only when something is separated from the creative power of love that it becomes a sin – once the fruit is torn from the vine then tossed to the ground and trampled underfoot after being seen as useless.
We come into this world as exiles in need of food and shelter, and so will it be when we make our next celestial transition. It is only natural that we want these things, and doing so is right and good. But most importantly and above all else, we need fellowship and community.
In Merton’s words, no man is an island. Or as Aristotle noted, man is made for citizenship. This is the most imperative need, which is why God saw fit to equip every single person on this earth with a mother upon birth. Out of all the things he could have supplied, that is the one and only thing we were guaranteed. Even our very own bodies are negotiable when we are placed in this woman’s care. It is as if God were saying even food and shelter are literally nothing without companionship – that even death is better than being alone. One might say that nonexistence is hell.
When a mother hears her child cry, what does she do? Does she ask the child what he needs then sit there waiting for him to answer? Or does she immediately run to his aid supplying him with his desire, knowing very well that the want and the need are one in the same? However, truth remains that apart from God who is the source and summit of the works of Creation, even the strongest and most insistent of mothers is incapable of saving a starving child – especially when that child refuses to eat or drink what God desires to feed him.
Fatherhood, like motherhood and discipleship are relational aspects meaning they require relationship. We are made to want what we need and to supply that very same want and need to our brethren – to fill that void in the heart of man which God alone can fill. Because Our Lord neither imposes on our free will nor forces Himself on us, He cannot fill that void without our cooperation – without our willing it.
Pleasure and joy and comfort are all gifts from God – yes, even when they are corporeal – just as long as they remain sacramental and bound by the grace desired to be given to us from above. Selfless love is the only thing worth having in this world, and in order to possess it one must first have the faith to ask for it and to sacrifice everything else just for the possibility of receiving it.
Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:46-52)