I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.)
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”
The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”
Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?
What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?
There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.
Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.
I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I’m neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires – and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:
“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”
To catch up on the series, read these featured stories:
Amy Chaney, “I didn’t want to be a coach’s wife.”
Beth Bruno, “I’ve wanted beauty.”
Wendy Stringer, “I didn’t want to move to suburbia.”
Steve Burks, “I’ve wanted to produce entertainment.”
Faydra Stratton, “I didn’t want a child with Fragile X.”
Brook Seekins, “I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa.”
Sarah Van Beveren, “I have always wanted to be strong.”
Holly Pennington, “I didn’t want to find out what I wanted.”
Larry Shallenberger, “I wanted to know what I wanted.”
Hannah Anderson, “I didn’t want – because I couldn’t afford to.”
Megan Hill, “I want your blessing.”
Bronwyn Lea, “I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid’s house.”
Jennifer Tatum, “I’ve wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . .”
Sarah Torna Roberts, “I didn’t want to be broken.”
Suanne Camfield, “I want a bigger house.”
Courtney Reissig, “I wanted a baby.”
Today, Cara Meredith shares her story of desire on the blog.
I’ve wanted it all – and I’ve felt entitled that I deserve it all.
I’ve held an inflated sense of self. Like a caged lion desperately devouring his meal of bones and blood, I’ve greedily eaten affirmations of self-promotion. Fed to me from the earliest elementary years, I’ve taken and applied these words of invincibility to heart: You can do anything you set your mind to! “Can’t” is just a four-letter word! Be all that you can be! On and on the exclamation points continued, pounding into every pore of my being, infesting every part of my soul.
While such inspirational phrases never meant harm, naturally, the shouts of entitlement found their way in to my life of faith – because why wouldn’t My Big Genie Above grant me the desires of my heart? So I’d whisper the psalmist’s words heavenward, making David’s thoughts my own: God, I delight in you – so give me the desires of my heart as you say you will. With an indulgent nod of the head, I’d punch a conclusive “Amen!” onto the end of that day’s expectant request.
Really, my directives seemed to work well for a while – until I left full-time ministry and struggled to understand my identity apart from a vocational definition of self. Until a season of wandering in the wilderness arrived, and walking through a vast, unmarked desert found me helpless to even know what to utter to the One I’d apparently known so well, only months before. Until a month of darkness clouded over me, when unheard cries were met with mute silence did I later begin to understand that Something New was perhaps emerging in me and with me.
In Everything Belongs, Franciscan author Richard Rohr likens this transformation to Jonah’s time in the innards of a whale: “We must go inside the belly of the whale for a while. Then and only then will we be spit upon a new shore and understand our call” (44). Because when we’re taken where we would rather not go, when we enter into this cycle of death and rebirth, again and again, over and over, change happens. New life enters in. Clarity is born.
And hopefully, in the sloppiness of spit-up and regurgitation, a different Jonah of a human emerges.
For me, I’m only now beginning to learn how to pray and commune and be apart from the pious certitude I leaned into for so long. But it is in this very uncertainty of not knowing that I clearly realize I’m right where I’m supposed to be. And maybe this is the answer I’ve been searching for all along.
Bio: Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from in the greater San Francisco area. She is currently writing her first book, a memoir of belief and disbelief, when she’s not on a hunt for the world’s greatest chips and guacamole. She loves people, food, reading, the great outdoors and her family. She and her husband, James, currently live in Pacifica, California, with their almost two-year old son, Canon, and a second little boy set to make his appearance in late August.