Protecting Desire 2: First biblical image of desire


The mere presence of desire suggests a wanting of something that is not fully available all the time. We want things we do not have. We desire better clothes, bodies, material things, more comfort, connection, or even simplicity. Not long ago, several women in my home fellowship group were bemoaning the isolation caused by hectic schedules and fantasizing about living in a smaller community or at least on the same street where they could share the burden with each other. They should share meal preparation, child-care, and reclaim something lost from life from a generation ago. Similarly, many of us have at one time or another wished to return to the Garden of Eden. Paradise—where simplicity reigns and struggles and thirst do not exist! But this is not the image that Genesis paints of Adam’s existence. Instead, we learn that Adam has work to do and no help in doing it. God himself acknowledges that it is not good for Adam to be alone. Imagine Adam’s growing loneliness as he named the animals, realizing that none could be his mate. Even before any sin entered the world, Adam struggled with the ache of loneliness, the unmet desire for companionship, and burden of being the only steward of all Creation. (okay, I’ve taken some interpretive liberties but when you read his response to Eve, he must have been missing something!)
Imagine Adam’s first sight of Eve as he awoke from God’s surgery. Did he finally feel connected after naming so many animals without finding a suitable companion? Was he enthralled with her beauty? What was it like to enjoy each other’s nakedness without shame or embarrassment? If you have had your first kiss, been engaged, enjoyed your honeymoon night—or just imagined what that might be like—and felt inspired to poetry, you know something of what he must have felt. Sheer bliss!
Like a dream turned nightmare, the very next instant recorded in the Scriptures assaults our image of paradise as a place free from unmet desire. Eve notices the fruit from the tree “in the middle of the garden” because it looks tasty and she desires the wisdom that Satan suggests she will obtain. And so ended whatever satisfactions were had from walking with God and living in the land as He designed it. As God describes the curse brought to the whole human race as a result of their sin, He prophesizes that unmet desire will be the hallmark of marriage relationships outside of Eden, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule [lord it] over you” (Gen. 3:16). [Note: Some commentators believe that desire is used here to mean jealousy. In other words, “you will be jealous for his position, but he will use his power to control you”—the picture of warring factions. The Song of Solomon 7:10 provides an image of the conflict removed, “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me.] From that point to the present, we know that all human desire is tainted if not utterly evil. The storyline of the Bible moves from one form of evil desire to another. It begins with Cain wrestling with jealousy and ends with the image of the whore of Babylon all dressed up trying to cover the evil that she is. And all through the middle, God’s creatures do battle with evil and self-centered desires that would overtake them. Remember the multitude of times the Israelites desire something other than what God offered; or David desiring another man’s wife; or Absalom and a host of others desiring power and rule; or how about the disciples desiring places of honor; the rich man desiring comfort; Simon the sorcerer desiring prominence; Ananias desiring ill-gotten honor; the Galatians desiring assurance from the law. On and on it goes.

Yet, lest we think all human desire is wrong all the time, we ought to take careful note of some important features of godly desire found in the Scriptures. Tune in tomorrow…

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, Desires, Meditations

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