Many of us want different consequences to our actions without actually altering our actions. I might want to get my budget under control but resist curbing my shopping habit, for example. Or I may hope for people to start trusting me without relinquishing my controlling and manipulative behaviors. Excessive consumption may have terrible health consequences but I can’t imagine enjoying myself without it. It helps here to focus on the “yes” rather than the “no.”
Rather than focusing on the thing we crave, we can ask God to ignite a passion for something else. It could be something once loved but edged out by addiction, like the exercise of some natural talent that glorifies God or lifts others. Perhaps she once loved performing musically, but excessive drinking made Rachmaninoff impractical. Perhaps he had a gift for writing poetry, but words escape him under the influence. Maybe something as simple as walks with your toddler in the stroller after dinner delight and attract you. Don’t “Just say no” to one thing without saying “Yes!” to something better.
If you have trouble imagining more pleasurable pursuits, meditating on the fruits of the spirit might bring possibilities to mind. If I were in possession of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, what pleasures would become possible? When we surrender our wants and ways to God, we make room for God to act in our lives, joining God as a partner in the creative process and inviting the kind of life change we cannot even imagine. When our imagination wanes, C.S. Lewis encourages trusting God’s imagination:
We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to 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.
When I realize God’s imagination for me is better than mine for myself, I can relinquish my silly notions that I know best how to satisfy myself. Whether those notions have led me to complete devastation or to a dull ache of emptiness (“There’s got to be more”), relinquishing them will free my imagination for the pleasures God would have for me. Replace life-snuffing pleasure with life-enhancing pleasure. I hope these verses and breathing prayers encourage you to have fun, for God’s sake!
6 You desire truth in the inward being;
therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. (Psalm 51: 6-8)
Inhale: sweet humor
Exhale: mean humor
Inhale: keen acuity
Exhale: drunken dullness
Inhale: intimate knowing
Exhale: anonymous sex
Inhale: Eros (life force)
Exhale: Thanatos (death drive)
Join the conversation. Is there anything in the attic of your psyche that needs to be given away?
Copyright 2012 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.