You've had it all along
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Have you ever prayed some version of, “God, I want to want you”? I’ve been saying it a lot lately. Deep in my bones I believe that only God can quench my heart’s insatiable desires. Even saying that out loud leads me to close my eyes and take a deep breath in — inhale and exhale — gosh, I want for God to be where the buck stops for me. I yearn to say honestly, “Give me God and I’ll be fine with whatever else I have.” Unattended, however, my heart seems to be just fine most of the time with living this out half-heartedly. (I’m not baiting you into a “try harder” or “don’t we suck” or even a “it’s ok, God understands” conclusion.) I can yearn for and believe God is my Enough, but I still often have this strange feeling that I’m pursuing and settling for the world’s trappings, leaving me yearning for something else. It’s hard to pinpoint because so many things my heart grabs onto are objectively great gifts, beautiful experiences, joyous parts of being human — but just because they’re awesome doesn’t mean they take me any deeper into God. It’s the difference between being blessed and needing blessings. One seems to make the heart more satisfied, the other seems to satisfy a dopamine receptor for a few minutes. One has the ability to say “it’s enough,” and the other can have a growing quota that needs met. It’s hard — I acknowledge this isn’t black and white. Good things are good! But I also clearly rationalize giving vast amounts of space in my soul to “good” things that get in the way of my heart gazing on God. It’s an addiction that’s tough to control. We have the power to go get things we think will make us satisfied: we can pursue compliments, we could maybe buy something that would make someone somewhere impressed or jealous, we can make a fun weekend plan, we can create a list of reasons we’re a good fill-in-the-blank-role. But none of that will change who I am at my core; none of that will actually make me believe that what I am is enough. So much of our culture is transactional: you find the elevator and do what you need in order to prove you deserve to go higher (relationally, professionally, whatever). We’ve been told that our lives will get better and we’ll become who we’re supposed to become by just keeping the elevator going. As I’ve struggled with anxiety and distraction and self-doubt, I’ve been really yearning for transformation — “God, I want to want you” — and I haven’t really found it within the transactional elevator paradigm. In fact, most of my own transformation seems to be coming from dealing with the baggage I collected along the way while riding these elevators. I’m finding that I’m often distracted because I want a dopamine hit — I’m looking for the next email to give me purpose afresh, the next news story to rile me up, the next text message, even the next video of Jude (my 7 week old). I’m often anxious because the transactional game is inherently fragile — it doesn’t take much for the whole calculus of one’s happiness to change drastically. Likewise, I didn’t foresee struggling with self-doubt as a husband, new dad or friend (“Am I doing it right and am I doing enough?”) — I mean, until recently there were always external measures to prove I was legit. But not so much anymore. I just picture God saying, “Everything you’ve been searching for you’ve had all along.” The prodigal son went off to try to find a satisfying elevator. When he returned broken and restless, his father basically told him the same thing: “Everything I have has always been yours, you know that.” Gosh, I want my soul to rest in that! Maybe the prodigal son felt stupid in that moment — “how’d I missed what was right in front of me?” — but I’d like to think he just felt like the most blessed guy ever, humbled and finally tasting peace in his original place. He finally realized the father could provide what he hungered for. The stuff I find awesome isn’t bad. I’m just seeing how it messes with me when I try to make it “mine” and try to “own” or “earn” something that was already being given to me — blessings for me to receive, enjoy, and share. I don’t need that person’s approval before I know my value. I certainly don’t need to buy something to make me any happier or more transformed. And when I do get or experience something awesome, do I recognize God as both the Giver, and ultimately, the gift itself? God, help us hunger first and foremost for you. Conor M.