By Debbie Shope
It’s summer!! As a teacher, I can shout those words with a vigor that would rival any eleven-year-old on the last day of school. And, like said eleven-year-old, if I am honest, my dream of summer is guided by the principle “Now I get to do what I want!” As an adult, I realize that is only a dream, but it is a delightful one!
Every summer I sit down and write out a list of what I would love to accomplish. I have all kinds of categories with sublists of various lengths on different color pages. That in itself might be enough to tell you there is something wrong here! Sometimes my greatest immediate desire is no nobler than taking a nap! The past year has been an extremely busy and sometimes hard one, and my counselor background tells me that sometimes a desire for a nap is the best thing. So the nap makes the list, along with home projects, appointments with friends and family, and work. My list of longings is robust and diverse, and that is okay, even good. Some entries I am excited about; others just need to be done.
This year, though, I also happen to have begun reading a book that has to do with desire. The author urges her readers to think about their desire for God. Like a good reader, I began to do so, especially in light of my lists. While spending time with Jesus and in His word does appear, so do a myriad other goals. It eventually dawned on me that my summer lists are really just that – goals for the short term. But they do reveal something else. If I look deeper, I see the underlying desires that propagate the lists.
Digging in, I see foundational desires for peace, for order, for control, for love, community and security. None of those is bad. They are God-given desires that reflect how the world was created to be, and our desire for them is indicative of our being made in His image. But what about my desire for God Himself? What if I had to prioritize? On any given day, what if I have to choose between time with one of my children and time with the Lord? Or reading a mystery novel and reading Scripture? What if my choosing the good instead of the excellent happened repeatedly, day after day? It crosses the line, as we say at New Life, where a good thing becomes a god-thing, and it happens all too easily for me.
Why is my desire for God so weak? I would say in my heart that it is strong. But my choices – my lists – might show otherwise. He is the Prince of Peace. He brings order out of chaos. He is Sovereign and the very source of Love – He is the answer to the foundational desires of my heart. Why do I settle for lesser versions? Why do I trust that they are what I need more than Him? I don’t have an answer. I wish I did. He promises in Psalm 37 that He will give us the desires of our heart. I only know that this summer, I am praying that my desire will be to desire Him above all else. That will become the cover page and title for all of my lists!