When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1:13-18
This may be a bit too much information for a few of you, but one of my grandchildren really has to work on getting the poop out. They are easily clogged up! I don’t know if you have watched a typical baby soil their diaper lately. If you had, you would know that this one baby is working pretty hard! It might take a couple of days to get to poop-stage and then a couple of hours for the great accomplishment to be completed!
The baby’s bowel movements made me think about our spiritual digestion, of course, and James. I have regularly felt spiritually clogged by some indigestible thought or feeling. I have often pondered what it might take too feel less backed up. You might relate to what I am talking about. The classic things that clog us up are the usual dissipations we use to distract us from what bothers us or to temporarily release us from what is. James calls this the practice of our “evil desires.” We drink too much, maybe insult someone when we are unreserved, get a headache and don’t go to the PM, then feel mildly irritated that we are the way we are and that irritation becomes a clog. We get in a relationship that started with sex and then ventured into intimacy, we end up connected but not committed, we have arguments we don’t know why we are having, we dread the next moment of awkwardness looking for closeness and then that dread becomes a clog. When we go to pray we end up rehearsing our irritations and dreads rather than relating to God. Sometimes we can end up with a real spiritual logjam because we stop praying altogether, it is so unsatisfying – at least the way we do
In just a few sentences, James has good wisdom for how to get things flowing again.
Note the desire.
If this were easy, we’d all be spiritually regular. We need to identify the diet that gives us spiritual indigestion or requires a laxative. With a baby, a parent needs to find out, through experimentation, what is best for this particular being to eat then feed it to them. Our Father has good food for us, too, but we need to cooperate and experiment with what is good for us. This starts, most of the time, with noting what is bad for us. Contrary to popular belief, some of our desires need to be sublimated. Some of them are downright evil. Note that. Employ a great friend or a good therapist to help you.
The other night after “happy mic” we ran into the NA group coming in for their birthday party. Those good people have noted their desire for chemical self-destruction and are very disciplined in their response.
Don’t be deceived.
A lot of people are feeding us crap. My friend and I swore off Burger King again the other day because we noted how we always get sick after we eat there, even though we also always think it is a delicious experience. People are feeding us 24/7 spiritual crap on every communication device they can lay hands on. With the new, popular worldview that every thought deserves its freedom of speech in the democracy of ideas, we have a tendency to take in everything and pretend we are not affected by any of it. Our perpetual seat at the intellectual smorgasbord clogs us up.
Two of my friends said on two days that they are overdue for their regular overnight spiritual retreat. I am getting one in the schedule, too. Concentrated time with God clears out the mind and refocuses our desires. Get up every day and pray. Stop sometime from 11:45-12:02 and pray with the network pastors and staff as they exercise that discipline.
Live the gift.
James can sound like he is just saying, “You are full of evil desires. Stop it!” That is not all there is to it. He starts us noticing what is happening and meditating on the causes. He wants us to wake up and see the evil. But the whole point is becoming new and doing new. This newness does not come from nowhere, it is coming from God all the time. We have the capacity to eat what is good, we just need to eat it. We have been offered the gift, we need live it. James has often been the cause of people suspecting every one of their desires as evil, so they restrict their sense of righteousness down to following only the proven principles of goodness. But I think the process is a lot deeper than that. Desire, in itself, is not good or bad. We have desires that can come to good fruit. When I move with God’s desires, I am moving with my own best interests and deepest good. I am unclogged.
I have to admit, that even as I am thinking and writing about these things, I can list all the desires that well up in me to compete with my deepest desires to be among the first-fruits of God’s new creation in Jesus. My life is littered with tablefuls of spiritual gumdrops and Doritos, and there are plenty of good-looking foods that are sure to mess up my spiritual digestive system, which doesn’t work that well anyway! I have choices to make. It may take a long time to get unclogged sometimes! But now that I have eaten some decent spiritual food this morning, this particular day may not feel so constipated.
Let’s live the gift. In Jesus, God gave birth to newness is us, too. No matter how difficult the process feels to you today, eat what’s good. Good is coming to you and meeting good desires in you. Let it work right through you.
4 thoughts on “Competing desires: Those spiritual clogs”
Good thoughts to ponder driving home on the Interstate. Will come to mind often at travel plazas contemplating salad vs. burger options . . .
hey Rod. I can relate. I was nourished this morning by the hopeful truth in Romans 6, that we don’t have to be slaves to the stuff that clogs us. It’s pretty amazing that through our Lord’s death and resurrection, we actually can make those choices that keep us flowing.
Your post reminded me of Philippians 4:8 “Finally, sisters & brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Thanks, Rod.
This is a really good post for self-reflection and solitary preparation with the Lord, but I also like that you’re saying this is like a family project, too- like a family preparing special foods for each one to eat. I’m contemplating which fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) I will receive today and which I can have a part in preparing for another today to keep the life flowing among us.