You received a blog from me just a few minutes ago. As soon as I posted it I saw so many errors in the text that I was mortified. (I wrote this after prayer this morning and did not do a serious edit after I finished it.) So, please read this same post with my numerous corrections.
While I am at it, I intend to write more blogs in 2018. TO do this I will write less posts taken from other sources and posted on my Facebook wall, a wall that is privately read by some friends. So watch for more blogs and please forgive me for being in such a hurry to share my newest blog early this morning. I hope this edition is a better, more readable, version of what I tried to write before.
Lord, Orchestrate My Desires
Much of our life is about understanding and responding to our passions and desires. The dictionary says a desire is “a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.”
Each of us are afflicted by certain passions and desires that occur because of the fall of Adam and Eve. This is something like a disease that has passed down to us as humans. (The Eastern and Western Churches have different theologies of how and why this happened; i.e. of the effects of the fall.) But from the word “passion” we get another word: “passive.” One Orthodox writer says: “The passions are sin sicknesses that have occurred in our hearts after the fall that feel so natural we can have them operate in our lives and we are its passive victim. Because of this, to be healed from them, we have to fight. We don’t fight in our own strength, but in the grace of Jesus Christ. It is still a fight, however, because healing from the passions feels very unnatural to us. But in fact, the effects of the passions in our life is quite unnatural. We were never created for this.”
Many of the passions we experience as persons feel quite natural and pleasurable to us, like gluttony pride, lust, anger and avarice. But in reality, these things cause us to suffer and pull us away from loving and trusting God. Jesus plainly says we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24.
Everything in life, even good things, has the potential to draw us away from the love of the father. Yet most of our desires are fixed, or caught, in the illusions of deeper fulfillment.
As pleasurable and deceptive as these human passions are, we can be healed from them. But this healing can only be found in deep mystical union with Christ. This requires a transformative process that is often painful, prompting Paul to write, “for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
What do we need? We need to see ourselves rightly. We need to know the difference between the passions and desires that entrap us and lead us to move away from the father’s love. We need to realize that these passions and desires are unnatural for us. They are a sickness. We will become well the more faithfully we live in the Spirit and thus allow the fruit of the Spirit to flow in us (cf. Galatians 5:22-23). As with any sickness we attain wellness through healing. The problem with so much Western teaching about sin and fallenness is that it cannot produce hope in us. We assume we are so deeply wedded to the power of our fallen passions and desires that we will always fail so long as we live in this world. (This is one reason we read Romans 7-8 the way we do, a reading that I have long felt missed what Paul was really saying!)
St. Innocent of Alaska wrote: “Every individual instinctively strives for happiness. This desire has been implanted in our nature by the Creator Himself, and therefore it is not sinful. But it is important to understand that in this temporary life it is impossible to find full happiness, because that comes from God and cannot be attained without Him. Only He, who is the ultimate Good and the source of all good, can quench our thirst for happiness.
So if St. Innocent is right, and I believe he is, then we need to turn our desires toward true happiness. And true happiness can only be found in the father’s house, where love abides in grace and mercy. We need to seek God’s love because “God is love.”
Healing from our passions, thus from our fallenness, is always a process. But if we concentrate on this process overmuch we will always fail. We must choose an audacious and bold direction with our life by making choices about what we will do, say, read, etc. We can begin each day by choosing a way that we will gladly embrace, even if it is painful. I can ask God, through the freedom he has granted to me in Christ, to orchestrate my desires in a vibrant loving melody rich in harmony. He can transform my desires and passions into one central desire for the kingdom of God!
Let us pray in 2018 for this single-minded desire for the kingdom, for God’s love and mercy. Here we can find the continuing transformation that will allow us to overcome our passions and desires. But we must never expect that this process will end in this life. This is summed up well by Abba Evagrius:
“What a man loves, that he certainly desires; and what he desires, that he strives to obtain.”
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Good morning John. I really enjoyed your post on the subject of passions and our passive entanglement. Your comments affirmed some prayer attitudes and commitments I made a couple of years ago when I read “The Way of a Pilgrim”. I also smiled in your humbly edited re-blog. You hardly need to imagine that as a high school teacher I see a high degree of “oops I didn’t mean to send it” papers. Be assured I grade on content, context and clarity. Your thesis followed through clearly and your point was well made. Good job! grade- 47/50 … 🙂 btw…I’m surprised you didn’t mention The Feast of Epiphany….Happy New Year…and God bless your continued work.
Thanks dear friend. Note that today’s blog does mention Epiphany!!!