The God Who is Not Embarrassed
This is another guest post from my beautiful friend, Tara. And it's definitely one that I needed to hear right now. Growing up as a "good religious girl" I struggle with desire and how to handle my own desires. I struggle with how to honestly and openly journey into desire and invite God into my desires. So, this post hit home for me personally. Tara always has a way of saying things that I need to hear right when I need to hear them and I'm so glad that I got a chance to see her in person and connect with her this past week. Thanks again, my friend!
Have you ever been in a public place when somebody blurted something out that made everyone else around turn red with embarrassment? Quite a few years ago, standing in the checkout line at Target, my little son stood up in the cart and, at the top of his lungs, yelled…“Mom…I need to go psssst!!!” and then proceeded to point to those body parts that mothers wish their kids wouldn’t point to in public.
I am not totally sure what I did, but I am sure I wished that I could have looked around bewildered, asking how some strange child (obviously not mine!) had gotten into my cart. Embarrassed, I did not want to claim this one as my own!!
Now, quite a few years later, I am coming to realize that how I felt that day in Target is oftentimes how I feel about the deep desires within my heart. Their strength and volume embarrass and, honestly, scare me.
The “good religious girl” in me is unnerved by the deep rumblings of my soul and asks questions like:
- what about being selfless and sacrificing?
- what if this leads you away from God?
- can you really trust the desires of your heart?
- aren’t they full of sin and marred by your depravity?
- what if you name your desire and then realize it can’t be lived?
- isn’t desiring bad?
- shouldn’t you just read the Bible and “do”?
- what if a desire is in opposition to what God wants?
She asks all these questions in rapid fire succession, all while glancing around nervously to be sure nobody actually heard the stated desire out loud.
It is not that those questions are bad, but it is here where I get stuck. Do I stay where I am or do I journey into desire? And what if I lose my way on the journey? Some of the spiritual authors I read – CS Lewis, John Eldridge, Sue Monk Kidd, Ruth Haley Barton – all speak of this journey into exploring our desires. But if I were to be honest, I am afraid at the force of the desires that press against my heart and make me feel like they will undo me. I am afraid to say them out loud for others to hear…for me to hear…for God to hear. I am afraid to want.
As I sit silently with this longing ache, I am reminded of the story of Bartimaeus and Jesus in Mark 10. It is a story of much shouting, and shushing and eventually poignnant question asking.
In the narrative the blind beggar Bartimaeus knows that Jesus is near and does not want to waste the opportunity; he begins to cry out!! Interestingly, his cry is “Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me!!!” It is from this portion of Scripture that we get our orthodox “Jesus Prayer”, and it dawned on me that it is a cry of desperation and longing for Jesus to stop…pay attention…and notice. It is the cry of utter longing mixed with the physical reality of a present state of total blindness. It is the state I find myself in as I take the journey of desire.
If we read on in the passage, we can see that these longing shouts unnerve the crowd. People try to shut Bartimaeus up. His desire and his loud cries are embarrassing them. But Bartimaeus chooses not to listen and cries out all the louder…”Son of David!! Mercy, have mercy on me!!”
Jesus stops. He has noticed. He calls this loud, raw, longing, blind beggar over. And then He asks him the question…”What do you want Me to do for you?...What do you want?...”
At this point Bartimaeus has a choice. Will he actually risk saying out loud what his deepest longing is? Does he have the guts to say to the Son of God what it is he wants? Does he risk looking stupid in front of others and Jesus to name his desire?
These are the questions that we, who journey with desire, must all face. Will we say out loud what is in our hearts and wait for the answer from the Master? For me…I am learning that God is large enough to handle my desire. He is gentle enough to sometimes say no and good enough to sometimes say yes. He is capable enough to transform my wanting into new and surprising desires too. And He is risky enough to not be afraid or embarrassed of it all.
Tara Malouf makes her home in the Seattle area with her husband and two kids. She loves images and words, quiet and beauty, walking and prayer. She sees with “connectedness” eyes and thinks life is lived in story. She aspires to be a professional friend.