Here is what I’ve come to learn about myself – I am a person who wants a lot of things. In fact, I desire deeply.
But I don’t think that is a quality or characteristic unique to me. I believe we are all created to be creatures of deep desiring. God’s Word affirms this in Psalm 27:4; Jeremiah 33:3, and John 15:7. God’s Word is not definitely not short on directives, passages, and places telling us to ask.
In fact, when it comes to my relationship with God, I would say one of my great sins of omission is that I ask for too little, not too much.
Here’s the problem: it’s not that I lack for a list of things to ask for – I have plenty of things on my list – it’s that when I actually am quiet enough in prayer to ask, my desires seem weak, flimsy, paltry, and shallow when I know I have God’s attention.
When I start looking at my list and seeing that I am asking for things like good grades for my kids, or enough time to finish things on my to-do list, or success on a project, I realize two things:
- I realize how little I really do trust the Lord. So many of the things I ask are really more of an excuse to worry out loud instead of reading, remembering, and trusting His promises.
- I realize how vain I really am, and how selfish, self-focused, and self-centered all of my asking is.
What if this new year, before we crafted our list of resolutions or wrote down our new goals, which really are a reflection of our real desires (to lose weight, look great, stay fit, make money, build a following, be successful, experience luxury), what if we first shifted our location and then formed our goals and resolutions? Because I believe this to be true –
What we want is always a function of where we are.
If we find that our desires are too shallow, too worldly, too weak, it is probably because we spend more time soaking in the world and its ways then we do sitting at the feet of Jesus.
If we find we want material possessions more than we want eternal reward, it is probably because we have spent too much time online or comparing ourselves to our neighbor instead of trusting in the riches found in God’s Word.
If we see that we want a certain body image or skin type more than we want the hidden qualities and virtues of the heart, it is probably because we spend more time looking in the mirror or at the gym or planning a perfect meal menu than we do sitting at the table of our God.
And if we desire success, fame, popularity, or influence more than we desire to follow after Christ, it is probably because we are looking at social media and the flash of promised fame and power more than we are looking at the way of the cross of Christ, its downward slope, and its promise that true power comes through sacrificial weakness.
Can I ask you something?
If you have already made New Year’s resolutions this year, where did you make them? Did you make them while holding your Bible in one hand while gripping the values of your culture in the other? Or did you make them while sitting at the feet of Christ with your full focus and attention on Him?
If you’re feeling uncomfortable right now, don’t worry – I am too.
Every year, Jason and I sit down together over a two day period in January and create goals for the year. It’s kind of a joke between us, and after twenty-two years of marriage, we laugh about this sort of thing, but most years, I spend a good portion of the first day in tears. All I can focus on is the ways I’ve fallen short, the goals I haven’t met, and the ways I am behind.
This year wasn’t any different. But after a tearful Day One, Jason read aloud Exodus 33. In this famous passage, Moses asks God, “Please show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). And God responds to Moses’ request by saying, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy’” (Exodus 33:19).
This chapter in Exodus is one of my favorites in all of Scripture and one I’ve read many times before, but something new caught my eye in a way it never had before. What shaped Moses’ desire was his location. Exodus 33:7-11 says this:
“Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”
Moses wanted to see God’s glory because he spent ample amounts of time in God’s presence. So much so, that his face shone with it (Exodus 34:29-35). The people recognized it (Exodus 33:10). And Moses knew his life and his leadership required it (Exodus 33:15-16). He had lived enough life to know what he was capable of (i.e. murder) if his time in God’s presence, listening to and obeying God’s voice didn’t outweigh the time he spent by himself, listening to his own thoughts, and leading out of his own strength and capabilities.
For so many years, I’d had it backwards. I tried to first want God’s presence and to see God’s glory move in God’s people without changing my location. I went pell-mell from Christmas into New Year planning. I rushed headlong from consumerism and purchasing and buying into trying to gain a quiet heart.
I needed to change my location. I needed some time, like Moses, in the tent of meeting. I needed to change my location from having one foot in the world and one foot in the tent of meeting, to be fully planted before God with a quiet, listening, humble, repentant posture of heart.
This blog isn’t meant to condemn us or shame us; it’s to help us to remember what we want is always a function of where we are.
To start off your new year, I would encourage you to spend long amounts of time asking yourself two questions that come directly from Scripture:
- Where are you (Genesis 3:9)?
- What do you want, or what are you seeking (John 1:38)?
Every morning, for the past few years, I start my devotional time with the Lord by journaling a response to one of those two questions. For a long time, when I came to the second question, I didn’t have an answer. I just stared at the paper. So I would go back to the first question of “Where are you?”
Slowly but surely, as I’ve learned to answer that first question more honestly and transparently about where I am with myself, my God, and with others, and learn to move closer into alignment with God’s location more than my own, I’ve started to be able to answer the second. Not perfectly. Not always exactly. But with more confidence.
And what I’m learning is that ultimately, what I want is Jesus. I want to walk with Him wherever He goes and let His Word and His ways shape my desires. It’s not an easy process, and it’s certainly not a quick one, but I’ve spent too many years of my life desiring vain and weak things. With the time I have been given and have left, I want to desire only the things that will last.
If you’ve already set your goals for this new year, that’s great! So have I. But I’ve had to go back, and let a changed location alter my resolutions and desires. That’s something you may need to do too.
If you haven’t set goals yet but plan on doing so, start by focusing on your location. Set aside ample time to meet with God. In order to do so, if you’re anything like me, you might have to make margin in these three ways:
- Make margin in your time – when and where will you go to meet with God?
- Make margin in your technology – how will you silence your screens in order to spend undistracted time in the presence of your God?
- Make margin in your treasure – what money or tithe do you need to invest in the kingdom of God? What talents, skills, and abilities do you need to allow God to use to make His Name great instead of your own?
What I’m finding is that changing my location changes everything.
In this new year, may we be a people who regularly meet with our God and then desire, like Moses, to see God’s glory move all over the face of the earth.