"Desire 01: Maps of Desire"
by Tim Suttle
Triad Discussion Questions:
- Tim asked us to be mindful of our desires. The text of Cole’s public reading, Gal 5:13-26, spoke of desires of the flesh and desires of the Spirit. How do these desires work against each other, to encourage or prevent us from doing what we want or know to do?
What does it mean to you to "guard your heart"? What might that have looked like in Jesus' time? What are some practical things you have done or could do to "guard your heart" in today's world?
In an immediate gratification culture, what loves/desires do you have that require time and waiting? What do you do in the waiting space?
What role does the mind (at least our attention / devotion of the mind to a topic) play in either forming or revealing desire?
The first and greatest commandment according to Jesus is to love God "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." In what ways can we cultivate each and how do they influence each other?
On July 8, 1879 the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco harbor amid cheering crowds and fanfare.
Its course was set to the North, heading up the west coast, through the Bering Strait, to set sail for Arctic waters.
Its mission was to make America the 1st nation to reach the North Pole.
A newspaperman named James Gordon Bennett bankrolled the expedition.
Bennett was sort of the Rupert Murdoch of his time.
He’s the guy who sent Henry Morton Stanley to Africa to find the lost Dr. Livingston, of “Dr. Livingston, I presume,” fame.
The dispatches from that adventure had sold a lot of newspapers.
Bennett hoped the voyage of the Jeannette would do the same thing.
The Captain of the ship was named George Washington De Long.
He was known as a straight shooter, tough, and capable.
He had fallen in love with the Arctic while on a voyage to Greenland, and dedicated the rest of his life to trying to reach the North Pole.
De Long spent five years meticulously planning the expedition.
It was one part adventure, one part scientific expedition, gathering data on the geography and climate of the arctic.
The Jeannette set sail with 33 men on board, driven by a desire to become the first to plant a flag at the top of the world.
And what they didn’t know at the time was: the moment they sailed out of San Francisco harbor… their voyage was doomed to failure.
It was never going to work.
And it was doomed not because of faulty sailing or an inadequate ship; not because of bad navigation or a lack of leadership…
But because they were relying upon a faulty map… you see…
Up to that time, no one had ever surveyed the Arctic to any great degree.
De Long’s expedition was staked on a set of maps that were made by a man named August Petermann.
Petermann’s maps suggested that a warm-water current ran through the Bering Strait, and softened the polar ice…
He called it the “thermometric gateway.”
He thought that if you could make your way through the ice, it would open up onto a vast Polar Sea…
Petermann was promising a fair weather passage to the North Pole.
Their entire expedition was staked on these maps that turned out to be completely false… in truth…
De Long and his crew were heading off into a world that didn’t exist.
The ship itself was incredibly strong. It had been reinforced to withstand the ice… but it became trapped in the ice floes, just north of the Bering Strait.
They drifted for 2 years & 1000 miles until it finally broke apart & sunk.
The men drug their equipment & lifeboats for 1000 miles to Siberia.
By the time it was all said & done, only 13 of the 33 men survived.
20 of them perished in the arctic cold, including De Long himself.
All because they had followed a faulty map…
PT: I tell this story because I believe that we are all driven toward a vision of life that is given to us almost like a map is given to a sailor. And a false map can lead us into disaster. We can be totally sincere people—devout, earnest, hardworking, well-intentioned people—and yet if we are following a false map we can end up heading into a world that doesn’t really exist.
Question - I want to pose this question & see how you might respond: What are the false maps we are tempted to follow?
Just to get us started, I heard an EX this week that got me thinking.
It’s the map that says: what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…
You can fly to Vegas, & for a weekend you can ignore right & wrong & the commitments you’ve made in your life.
And insulate that from the rest of your life by saying, what happens…
It’s a false map—of course that stuff will impact the rest of your life.
So, what are the false maps we’re tempted to follow?
PT: I believe that we can be honest, devout, sincere, hardworking people and still get ourselves into all kinds of trouble, not because we’re wicked or sinful, but because we are following faulty maps. Maps that promise things they can never deliver because they simply don’t square with reality... They beckon us to chase a fantasy… a world that doesn’t really exist.
This story of the USS Jeannette & their doomed voyage to the North Pole is told in a book called In the Kingdom of Ice by the author Hampton Sides.
He wrote that as the ship drifted toward the North Pole, the team finally had to come to this point of reckoning in which they admitted that:
There was no Polar Sea… no warm-water passage.
Their maps were bad.
And if they were going to have a future, the crew (the author said) had to
“shed its organizing ideas, in all their unfounded romance, and to replace them with a reckoning of the way the Arctic truly is.”
I love that characterization:
They had to replace in their maps, this romantic fantasy of the Polar Sea, with a new reckoning of the way the Artic truly is.
PT: What do we do when we realize that we’re looking at a faulty map? We have to be willing to let the map go, and to replace the faulty maps with new maps that square with the way the world really is.
Jamie Smith says it this way: “Our culture often sells us faulty, fantastical maps of “the good life” that paint alluring pictures that draw us toward them. All too often we stake the expedition of our lives on them, setting sail toward them with every sheet hoisted. And we do so without thinking about it because these maps work on our imagination, not our intellect. It’s not until we’re shipwrecked that we realize we trusted faulty maps.”
Just for a moment, think about this with me.
When you have staked your entire life on a map of what makes for a meaningful life, & you’ve charted your entire course by that map.
It’s why you have the job you have.
It determines how you spend your time & energy & money.
You are chasing a certain kind of life and vision of the future you think will be meaningful.
Do you know how hard it is to change course in the middle of all that?
It’s going to take something powerful to make us shed our old faulty maps & replace them w/new ones that square w/reality…
I don’t know if you caught it, but imbedded in that quote is a serious critique of the church.
Smith says that the maps we follow don’t work on our intellect.
They work on our imagination.
This is a very important point.
We all have this vision of the world—this map that we follow…
…and the impact of the map goes far beyond the mind.
It shapes our imagination for what is possible in our lives & what our lives mean & what we chase after in our limited days.
This is actually kind of revolutionary, especially in our world, because the way we most often try to change our maps is via the intellect, not imagination!
We’ve talked about this many times. In the 1600s there began an era known as The Enlightenment… time of great intellectual advancement.
People began to trust in knowledge & the human intellect as the map that would show the way forward to a brighter future.
Rem. the famous phrase by Rene’ Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.”
I know that I exist because I can think about my own existence.
Since that day humans = thought of themselves as primarily thinking things
It’s like we’re live-action Bobble-head dolls; just a brain on a stick.
That’s one map of reality… and yet we know, the mind actually has limited ability to direct human behavior.
You know what the most powerful thing is, in terms of what actually directs our behaviors?
Desire… we follow what we desire.
We chase what we desire.
So if we want a course correction in our life?
If we want to start following a map that is not faulty?
The intellect can only take us so far.
At some point, we’re going to have to deal with our desires.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the intellect isn’t important.
It’s very important… scripture talks about this often…
2 Cor 10:5 says, “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Rom. 12:2: warns us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”
A follower of Jesus will love and study the Bible.
Psalm 1 says “his delight is in the law of the Lord.”
So, if we are serious about following Jesus, we will make the most of opportunities to study, read, learn, discuss.
And yet we could do all of this… and still live by a false map.
Jesus did not simply ask us to change our minds.
Jesus was after something more basic… he was after our hearts…
Which is a way of saying the center of our desires.
PT: And when it comes to the direction of our lives… the most powerful force we have to reckon with is desire. We go where our hearts point us.
This is profound wisdom that we actually get from Jesus and the writers of Scripture.
In John Ch. 1, there’s this interesting time when 2 followers of JTB switch to following Jesus.
And out of the blue JS wheels around on them & says:
“What do you want?”
Now, the fact that Jesus asked them a question was no big surprise.
Rabbis were always asking questions.
What’s surprising is the question itself:
He didn’t ask: “What do you know?” “What do you believe?” “Whose side are you on?” “Who you voting for?”
He asks, “What do you want?”
Jesus seems to know that we are defined by what we want…
This is a powerful reality.
We are driven by what we DESIRE.
Have you ever thought about that?
We may be taught to think we’re like bobble-head dolls…
…that we’re defined by what we think, but it’s not true.
We’re driven & defined in large part by our desires.
Jamie Smith says: “Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow. Our wants reverberate from our heart, the epicenter of the human person.”
Desire lives at the core of our identity, & is the wellspring of our actions
It’s not really our intellect, or beliefs that motivate us in our lives.
It’s our desire.
We go where our hearts point us.
Which is odd given how often we ask one another “what do you think?”
When the real question is, “What do you want… truly desire?”
The answer to that question will explain the way I live my life.
There’s this great Proverb that talks about this: Proverbs 4:23… it says:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Say this with me …
The mind is powerful… but not nearly as powerful as our desires.
Desire beats intellect almost every time.
How else can you explain why some people still smoke cigarettes or eat Big Macs, right?
We know it’s not good for us, and that it can eventually kill us.
But there is this desire at work & desire usually trumps the mind.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
Have you ever observed in your own life, how new information or knowledge doesn’t seem to translate into a new way of life?
For example, have you ever been convicted by a really great sermon on Sunday (just go along with me on this)…
And you wake up Monday morning determined to have that conviction mean something in your life…
& by Tues. evening, the wheels of motivation have already come off?
What if we are not oriented toward our destination primarily by our thoughts, but by our desire… or you might say… by our loves?
If that’s true, again, it doesn’t mean we want to reject thinking.
Learning, information, knowledge, those things are important.
We need thinking… and… we need something more than thinking.
We don’t need less knowledge. We need more than just knowledge.
Now, you might be tempted to think: if we’re not thinking things maybe we are primarily feeling things.
Maybe we should follow our feelings.
But talk about a faulty map.
Our feelings can change every 5 minutes.
If we follow that map we’re doomed.
So, we’re not primarily thinking things, but we’re also not primarily feeling things. What we are, primarily, is loving things.
At the core of who we are as human creatures on the earth, there is something that drives us toward a particular kind of life.
Scripture calls this thing at the core of us, the heart.
The heart is the seat of desires… it’s where we love from.
PT: That means in very simple terms, that although the modern world has told us ‘you are what you think,’ the truth is ‘you are what you love’ …what you long for. You become what you desire. The center of a person is not the head regions of the intellect, not the feeling centers of emotion and mood, but the gut-level regions of the heart. So, “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
It’s interesting that as Christians we often rely on the heart to convince people to follow JS… make a decision, but after the decision to follow JS is made.
We switch to the intellect… we don’t always deal with the heart.
It’s like we say: we want your soul to flourish in God and here’s the pathway to get there – knowledge, knowledge, knowledge.
Jesus, and the scriptures seem to be saying: We want your soul to flourish and here’s the pathway to get there: love, love, love.
Richard Rohr often says that love means giving up a little bit of your own personal truth for the sake of relationship, believing that the relationship will teach you a deeper truth… that is only revealed through love & sacrifice.
Love is about letting go of our need to be right so that we can be in relationship that will teach us what we can’t learn by our intellect alone.
I mean, you’ll be amazed at the way your knowledge and insight and understanding will increase as your ability to love increases.
Discipleship, is a kind of reordering of desire through an embrace of love.
Jesus’s call to follow him is a command to align our desires with God’s desires.
To want what God wants.
To desire what Jesus desires.
And to be pulled, therefore, into the map of God’s rightly ordered world… or what we call the kingdom of God.
JS is not merely a teacher who’s interested in our intellect & our beliefs.
Jesus is primarily a lover, who is interested in our loves.
JS didn’t come to download information to the hard drive of our brains.
Jesus came to reorder our desires, our longings, our loves.
Jesus is not merely about calm, detached reflection and quiet contemplation. Jesus invades the heated, fiery furnace of the passion of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 says Jesus is the Word who “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit.”
In other words he invades our imaginations.
He breaks up the bad maps that we’ve been given, and he forms a new maps in our hearts.
He judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, and calls into question our desires.
In other words: he asks—what do you want?
He’s still asking that to all of us.
What do you want? What do you desire?
Will you let Jesus shape those things?
And he dives into that and breaks it up and reorders it and gives us new desires… a new kind of love.
Consider one example of many in the words of Paul. Philippians 1:9-11.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more & more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Now, if you read it too quickly, you may be left with the impression that Paul is primarily concerned about knowledge.
At a glance, given our conditioning, you might think Paul is praying that these Christians would gain knowledge and insight into what love is.
In fact, Paul’s prayer is exactly the opposite of that.
He prays that their love may abound more and more because, in some sense, love is the setting for knowledge and insight.
You might say it this way:
We do not know in order to love.
We love in order to know.
And Paul tells us that if we are going to discern what is best and what is excellent, what really matters in our lives… what is of ultimate importance…
The place to start is by attending to our loves... our desires.
They hold the power that will propel us into the future.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
I want to try something. I’m going to read a quote & I want you to try and guess who wrote it…
“A body by its weight tends to move towards its proper place. The weight’s movement is not necessarily downwards, but to its appropriate position: fire tends to move upwards, a stone downwards. They are acted on by their respective weights; they seek their own place. Oil poured under water is drawn up to the surface on top of the water. Water poured on top of oil sinks below the oil. They are acted on by their respective densities, they seek their own place. Things which are not in their intended position are restless. Once they are in their ordered position, they are at rest.”
Any guesses…? It’s actually St. Augustine of Hippo, over a 1000 years before the time of Isaac Newton.
He was reflecting not just on nature, but upon the human condition & human heart.
And it just so happens that what’s true of the heart is true of gravity.
So you think its Newton… but it’s St. Augustine.
He says, everything has its proper place.
And there’s an intrinsic weight to everything that exists…
…this weight that pulls everything that is… toward to its proper place.
Fire wants to go up… that’s what it desires.
A stone thrown into water will find the bottom… that’s what it desires.
A beach-ball held under the water will eventually pop up to the surface, because that’s what it desires.
“A body by its weight,” Augustine stays, “tends to move towards its proper place.”
Things end up going where their desires lead them…
This is true of objects in nature.
And it’s true of you and me.
Then, Augustine said: “My weight is my love. Wherever I am carried, my love is carrying me.”
Our love, our desires, they carry us.
You are going to go where you desire.
You are going to follow what you love.
And so it all comes back to that great question JS asked:
What do you want?
The answer to that question is the a map that leads you into the future.
Augustine’s finished like this… he said: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.”
It’s such a brilliant line:
We have been made for fellowship w/God.
The human heart is restless… until… it finds its rest in God.
It can’t find its proper place in the world, until… it finds its rest in God.
When our desire, our love, our heart is rightly ordered, we are restless.
And we will cast about for directions, for maps to show us the way.
But if our hearts are not pointed toward God, for whom we are made, then we’ll continue to experience anxiety & restlessness.
To be human is to be on a journey… a quest. We are all going somewhere.
And throughout our lives there is a dynamic at play between the maps we navigate by, and the internal guidance system of our desire.
There’s a vision out there that pulls us, & a desire in here that drives us.
And the resonance between those two things propels us thru our life.
PT: For the next 4-5 weeks we are going to talk about our desires, our loves. How do we orient our hearts in a way that lead us out into flourishing, and not into shipwreck. How can we find trustworthy maps that can help guide us toward the life we are made for?
St. Augustine was a 5th century theologian in North Africa. His most famous line was also a statement of human identity. “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.” James KA Smith says there are three key claims inside this statement. One is that we are made with a design, by and for our Creator. Two is that the thing that most orients us in life is our heart (in Greek is kardia - not the modern heart idea of sentimentality, but the visceral orientation to world, what drives us, our desire). And three is that we will find rest when our desire, our love, our heart is rightly ordered.
And the negative way to say that is if our hearts are not pointed toward God for whom we are made, then we will experience a besetting anxiety and restlessness when we try to love substitutes. When our compass leads us off by degrees, into maps that are false to begin with, we will find
How do we tell what we desire, what we truly love? I’ll tell you the easiest way… 2 indicators: Look at how you spend your time. Look at how you spend your money. That will tell you what you really desire, what you love.
A couple of weeks ago we
Review habits… love is a habit.
The Christian story gives these two central disciplines or habits that are meant to shape our habits & work on our character with regard to time & money.
Time – Sabbath
Money – Tithe
18:20 with John's talk. Jesus didn't come to teachers information but to give us new maps of reality and what it means to be a person and who God is and what our lives it mean. The verse about dividing between soul and spirit. He comes to invade the fiery furnace of the soul. How does this happen?
In large part it happens with regard to our habits. There is this connection between our habits and our desires. Go to the stuff on habits virtues and vices works down into our character. The practices of Sabbath & tithing are there to re-order our desires, to shape what we truly love. Where the treasure is there will your heart be also
Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.