"Desire 02: Reading our Maps"
by Tim Suttle
By Johnny and Sarah Winston
There once was a boat named Nantucket
It hit the Monroe and it sunk it
It's compass, you see, was off two degrees
So examine your heart or you'll junk it
Where do our desires come from? Are they God given? Are they culturally developed
Why are our desires sometimes so strong, and other times they seem hidden and unknown until they manifest themselves in our words or actions.
The public reading for this sermon was about an encounter of Jesus with the chief priests and elders, Matthew 21:28-32. We mirror one son’s answer in some parts of our lives, and the other son’s answer in other aspects of our lives. How does this illustrate Tim’s teaching that we do not always love what we think we love?
What do you spend your time thinking about and how does that form or reveal your desires?
We know we are saved by God’s grace. Yet, our lives – by our actions – reveal our hearts. How do we develop hearts that serve out of abundance of love for God and not out of a sense that we have to earn our salvation?
hat are some practical ways you can change or strengthen the ways you spend your time and money (the Hebrew concepts of Sabbath and tithing, respectively, in Scripture), which would influence your relationship with God, others, yourself and creation?
Last week we talked about the USS Jeannette, whose crew went searching for a warm water passage to the North Pole & their voyage was doomed:
Not because of bad equipment or poor leadership, but because they were relying on a faulty map…
…and that this can happen to anyone…
Honest, devout, sincere, hard-working people can still get into all kinds of trouble in their lives;
Not because they’re wicked or sinful but because they’re following faulty maps; maps that don’t square with reality;
So they lead us into a life that isn’t really real.
Part of spiritual maturity involves surrendering old bad maps & replacing them w/new maps that square with reality.
It’s important because the power of the map is how it shapes our desire
And this is the crux of our whole series.
We follow what we desire, we chase after what we desire.
We go where our hearts point us.
The way we map our world… will shape our desires.
But there’s more to it than just a map…
In 1914, 2 years after the sinking of the Titanic, Congress convened a hearing to investigate another nautical tragedy.
In January of that year, the steamship Monroe was rammed by a merchant ship called the Nantucket off the coast of Virginia.
And the Monroe sank after only 10 minutes… 41 people died.
Osman Berry, the captain of the Nantucket, was blamed initially.
But during the official inquiry Captain Edward Johnson of the Monroe was grilled on the stand for over five hours.
And it was revealed that he was navigating w/a steering compass that deviated as much as 2 degrees from the standard magnetic compass.
This was a bombshell.
This is a picture of The New York Times from the next day.
The headline reads: “Monroe Steered by Faulty Compass.”
The captain insisted that the instrument was sufficient to run the ship, & noted that it was common in the coastal trade to use such compasses.
But during the year he had been master of the Monroe, his compass had not been recalibrated a single time.
So the faulty compass that seemed adequate to navigate the maps of the coastal trade routes proved to be fatally flawed.
He wasn’t off course by much, but it was enough to steer the Monroe into a sea-lane that was too close to oncoming traffic. A simple compass that was not properly calibrated helped set into motion the events that sank the ship.
The New York Times said after the hearing, “The two Captains met, clasped hands, and sobbed on each other’s shoulders.”
The sobs of these two burly seamen are a moving reminder of the consequences dis, or mis-orientation.
The maps were fine, the captains were experienced, the vessels were sound, but the compass was off only a few degrees… was enough.
The analogy is this: We are each drawn toward a vision of life that is given to us like a map given to a sailor.
If the map is faulty… it can lead us into disaster.
The map is sort of like our imagination, and it shapes the desires that motivate us thru our lives.
We need good maps in order to have a properly shaped imagination.
But there’s more to it than that.
If our imagination is like a map… the human heart is like a compass.
It helps us to reconcile the ideal world of the map, with the actual world that lies in front of us.
The compass helps us square the chart with the seas.
And the human heart is like a compass.
And like a compass, the human heart must be calibrated regularly, tuned toward our true north.
The verse that is serving to ground this entire series comes from Prov. 4:23. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
So, our desire is shaped by our maps of the world.
But we navigate those maps by the compass of the heart.
Our maps are external, if you will….
They come to us from outside… from culture… faith… experience.
And we’re constantly updating our maps to square with reality.
The compass is internal to the person… it’s the heart…
And we can have the best maps in the world & still get off course if we have a poorly calibrated compass… a poorly calibrated heart.
Last week we learned that we become like what we love. This week we have to reckon w/the reality that we don’t always love what we think we love. The heart very often leads us astray in our lives; my internal compass is less than perfect.
I saw a blog post this week listing 25 things in life that sound really good until you try them… it cracked me up… for instance:
Eating all the ice cream: No matter how depressed you are, this will inevitably lead to regret.
Being the Boss: … mostly it just means you work harder, & everybody 2nd guesses you & talks bad about you behind your back.
Owning a Boat: You might as well just throw your money in the water.
Having a GoPro: GoPros are awesome if you do awesome things. The truth is, your life is probably not exciting enough to justify wearing one.
Sleeping in a Hammock: it sounds cool… actually uncomfortable. Anyone ever climb into a hammock & immediately have an anxiety attack?
Being a Musician: … you’re just a human juke-box… you’re there for people to get drunk & yell “Freebird” at you… all. night. long.
The point is we don’t always love what we think we love. We can easily be enticed to love things that are ultimately unfulfilling if our compass isn’t calibrated.
When I was young all I wanted to do was to be a musician. I spent thousands of hours learning to play & write songs.
It was a powerful internal compass for me.
Then I became a musician & learned the job was not what I thought…
It’s mostly blue-collar work… Loading in, loading out.
Sucking up to the people who sign the checks.
Driving all night to wake up for promotional events at radio stations or music stores… (they used to have these stores that sold actual records)
Then you play the same songs night after night.
Trying to sell enough merch to get you to the next town.
It was a grind… definitely not-glamorous.
Now, I loved it for the most part… but my map was off at first.
The job of musician I had in my mind didn’t square with the reality…
So I had to adjust the map…
Later on I started to encounter a compass problem… a heart problem.
Because what I really loved about the job, it was the ministry aspect.
The relationships with guys in the band…
The moments of teaching between songs… the songs themselves.
The conversations after the show… that’s what my heart was drawn to.
The actual business of music… the money changing hands?
I could never navigate that… my compass was not calibrated for it.
My heart couldn’t help me navigate the world of CCM.
Until finally, what I realized travelling around playing music was…
I loved the church… that’s where my heart was taking me…
My heart was trying to get me to navigate toward creativity, beauty, connection, friendship, mission, ideas, learning… and all these things that I had associated with music as a profession, turned out to be much more present in the church.
Somewhere along the line, my internal compass became recalibrated… under the direction of the Holy Spirit… and I helped start this church. It took me 10 years to learn that lesson…
10 years I spent, thinking I loved one thing, and learning that I really loved something else.
I think this is simply part of the human experience.
We don’t always love what we think we love.
So if I asked you today: what do you really desire in your life? You know exactly the kinds of things you are supposed to say.
You could all give good answers… right answers…
They just might not be true, know what I mean?
They would be answers that you know you ought to say…
Answers that you want to be true.
But at least some of them will be off by a few degrees if you really looked deep in your heart.
And I think that part of spiritual growth & maturity is about learning to recalibrate the heart to try and square our maps of what God wants to be true in our lives, with where our desires are actually taking us. And most of the time, we’re the worst at judging our own desires. You know this right? People are terrible judges of our own desires. We don’t always love what we think we love.
In his book, Strangers to Ourselves, Timothy D. Wilson (University of Virginia) says only about 5% of what we do in a day is the result of conscious thought.
So 95% of what you do each day, you don’t even think about…
It comes from unconscious habits.
Wilson’s says the human mind—get this—can take in 11 million pieces of information at any given moment.
The most generous estimate is that people can be consciously aware of around 40 of these… maybe far less, like only 10-11.
It’s a ratio, roughly, of a million to one.
Your brain can take in 11 million bits of information at a single moment… but you are only aware of a handful of them…
So, this is the conscious mind… this is the unconscious mind.
Which of those do you think are more powerful in our lives?
For centuries we told ourselves the conscious mind is where the power is.
But new science, coupled w/ancient wisdom (because this stuff is all over the Hebrew Canon & the New Testament), is teaching us…
It’s actually the unconscious mind, or what we might call the heart… that powers the human life.
Right now your mind is taking in 11 million bits of sensory data.
Your body can sense gravity; you sense & manipulate it w/every motion of your body.
But how often do you consciously think about gravity?
You have a sense called proprioception: the position of your body parts in relation to the rest of the body.
You can’t do anything physical w/out this sense, but you never consciously think about it.
Did you know that when a man & woman kiss, their bodies can actually sense genetic diversity in saliva.
Scientists have shown that women are more attracted to men when they have a greater genetic diversity.
We thought it was our sense of humor…
And this is going on all day everyday.
Millions of bits of information are flowing to your unconscious mind.
We think our conscious mind is powerful, most of the power of our mind is below the level of consciousness… it’s our un-conscious mind.
Robert Brooks wrote about this stuff in his book The Social Animal. He says, “The conscious mind writes the autobiography of our species. Unaware of what is going on deep down inside, the conscious mind assigns itself the starring role. It gives itself credit for performing all sorts of tasks it doesn’t really control.”
Desire, in large part, happens in the unconscious mind…or the heart.
Love happens not just in the head where we can think about it, but in the heart & the gut.
So we don’t always love what we think we love…
Because the heart is mysterious & even… dare we say… deceitful!!
The prophet Jeremiah wrote about this reality in Jer. 17:9, when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
The Message translation says, “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.”
Last week we talked about the question Jesus asked two followers: “What do you want?”
I’m starting to think the most accurate answer we can give to that question is, “How would I know?”
We live in an era where desire is celebrated as this authentic thing.
Just be yourself… do what’s in your heart we’re told.
You just be you...
But that’s easier said than done.
Bob Dylan put it this way: “All I can be is me, whoever that is.”
I think there’s some deep wisdom in that confession…
“All I can be is me…” sure I’m with you.
But I’m not really sure we know what we mean by that…
Jeremiah didn’t think so either… for him, ”the heart is deceitful above all things… a puzzle that no one can figure out.”
What do I want really? Who knows? I can tell you what I think I want. But here’s my conscious life… and here’s my unconscious life… so… I don’t know. Maybe: we may not love what we think we love. We may not know what we really desire. So, then, how can we learn?
Jesus tells a story about this very thing in Mt. 21… he says:
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but then he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
This story is one of 3 parables that are directed to the chief priests & elders.
They had challenged Jesus and his teachings.
Questioning his motivation and ministry.
Ironically, the chief priests & elders never repent in Matt’s gospel.
He mentions John the Baptist, who preached a baptism of repentance.
They never accept his message.
But the tax collectors and prostitutes, they do… they repent.
They might be a mess… but their hearts were on the table…
They’re compasses were in the midst of a major recalibration.
They had been chasing their own desires, but they were not too proud to admit that they didn’t really know what they were looking for.
By the way, you know that’s what sin is, right?
Almost always in the bible sin is what happens when we chase legitimate desires in illegitimate ways.
So something like pornography appeals to a legitimate desire in terms of human sexuality.
But it does so in an illegitimate way that is toxic to the human person.
The prostitutes, the tax collectors, they knew their hearts were looking for something… but their compass was off by a few degrees.
They chasing legitimate desires in illegitimate ways.
When they came in contact w/the real thing… in Jesus…
They had no problem handing their compass/hearts over to JS.
You know who couldn’t repent?
The church-people…the life-long religious folks… in other words:
The people who were certain they had a handle on their own desires.
They could knew all the right answers, they knew what to say and how to say it…
They knew almost everything you could know.
They just didn’t know their own hearts…
And more than that… they couldn’t admit it.
The 2nd son?... he knew the right answer to give.
“Of course Father. I’ll do what you ask.”
But he was a total Eddie Haskell.
His heart said, “blow it off… do what you want.”
How do we know that’s what his heart said?
Because that’s what he actually did.
The 1st son was a struggler. He told his father the truth…
”No way. I don’t feel like working in the fields today.”
But then his heart got the best of him.
And he changed course.
And JS’s question is… who did the will of the father?
And this is really the power of the parable.
You want to know your deepest desires?
You want to know what you really love?
Look at what you actually do in your life.
Jesus seems to believe that a person’s actions reveal the heart.
Your deepest desires are on display in your daily life and habits.
The problem is we’re not usually in touch with what we really want.
The compass is often off by a few degrees.
There’s a difference between what we say we want & our true desires.
There’s the map of the world we are chasing after.
And then there’s the reality on the ground.
Without a well calibrated compass… the maps don’t do us any good.
Jesus says, you want to understand what you really want, what you really love? Just look at your life: what do you actually do. That’s what you desire. We do pretty much exactly what we desire to do. And that can be kind of scary to us.
There’s this crazy film from the 70s called The Stalker, by Andrei Tarkovsky… it’s a Russian film… kind of a psychological-dystopian film, very weird.
The three main characters are making this journey through a nuclear wasteland, headed for this oasis called the Zone.
And in the middle of the zone is something called The Room.
And the room is enchanted with the power to be able sense your deepest desire… and to grant you that desire.
So these guys go on this harrowing journey, and finally make it to the threshold of The Room, I mean they are right there.
And they are told, “This is the most important moment in your life; your innermost wish will berevealed & made true here in this room.”
And the twist in the story is, they all freeze.
They kind of choke because it finally dawns on them: this room is going to reveal what I want more than anything else.
What if I don’t really know what I desire?
See they won’t get what they think they want, but what they really want.
What if the desires they are conscious of are not their innermost longings, their deepest wish?
Do you feel that tension?
What if we had a magic room right up here & it would reveal to you what you really desire & everyone in this place would know it & see.
And it & it would come true right here in front of everybody.
Would you step into that room?
There’s a sense in which Jesus is saying: Your life is that room.
Life has a way of revealing what we really desire.
All we have to do is observe what we do.
I think, in particular, you can tell what you really desire, what you really love by looking at two things: your calendar & your wallet.
You want to know what you really love?
How do you spend your time, & how do you spend your money?
Maybe that’s why the two anchoring disciplines for the Hebrew people were these habits of time: Sabbath keeping; & habits of money: Tithing.
Sabbath regulated how they spent their time.
Tithing regulated how they spent their money.
One day a week was set apart as holy time, filled with worship, community, and delight.
One tenth of their income was set apart as holy, filled with meaning, abundance, and provision.
That’s why I think Sabbath Keeping & Tithing those disciplines are meant to be a floor, not a ceiling… they are the foundation of our desires, our loves.
If I keep Sabbath, then my heart is recalibrated by that practice.
One day each week I am reminded that I’m not generating my own life.
I’m receiving it.
The way I live my life… spend my time… will recalibrate my internal compass… my heart.
If I tithe 1/10th of my income, my heart is recalibrated by that practice.
I am reminded that I’m not generating my life, I’m receiving it as a gift.
When I return those first fruits to God I’m saying that I know where all of this comes from.
I’ll redirect this income both to sustain my life, but also the life of the people of God & the kingdom of God.
By taking part in that discipline, I recalibrate my inner compass.
I’m insuring that money will never become my master, & I its slave.
We often work on our maps; that’s a big part of what we do when we worship & study the bible, and serve together in mission.
But there’s this internal thing that’s going on.
It’s not always obvious to us.
It’s happening below the level of consciousness…
When we follow God with our feet, & obey the call of the Father…
We recalibrate the internal compass of our hearts until they can find true north.
Desire is at the core of who we are. The heart is pointed in directions we may know nothing about. The heart is deceptive. Who can understand it? The heart is revealed by what we do. And somehow what we do also seems to seep back down into our hearts. And so the question I want to leave you with is: “What does your daily lived-life say about what you really desire… what you really love? Especially as you look at how you spend your time & how you spend your money… what does that say about what you really love?” As we close we’re going to spend a few minutes in silence, considering that question.