I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.
“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”
The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”
Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?
What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?
There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.
Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.
I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:
“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”
Today. Beth Bruno writes her story of desire.
* * * * *
I’ve wanted beauty. I've been desperate for it like air, since the days of living in a concrete jungle built on the necessity of population explosion rather than the values of design.
We had been living in Istanbul for several years when we realized our souls ached for the beauty of nature, creativity, and attention to design. We were crossing continents to sit in ornate hotel lobbies and coffee shops whose baristas bothered to craft a leaf atop the cappuccino foam. We drove hours to reach a protected forest, still dense with picnickers, but at least devoid of the coal polluted metropolitan. We purchased grass seed and tended to the 3x6 foot plot of earth in our apartment building courtyard.
And our desire soared. We had named the ache and set about filling it. When desire is first identified, hope swells. All is possible. Grass seed, painted walls, and that new cafe around the corner seemed sufficient to quell the longing. It bought us time as we staved off the soul ache.
But crumbs can only nourish for so long. Upon returning from a summer vacation, we found our grass had died. None of the other tenants cherished our little seeds of hope, tiny babies of desire left to wither. And besides, it wasn’t enough. Desire had awakened an unquenchable thirst for a beauty Istanbul couldn’t seem to offer. Even moving to a suburb, renting a little concrete townhouse with its own plot of grass, didn’t remove the ache. Our souls were withering too.
We had begun to suspect the parallel ache of a fallow ministry - that our pain stemmed from seeds of life embedded in rock, unwilling and unable to birth life.
When we mustered the courage to leave that mass of people and concrete, we offered a muted prayer to a God we weren’t so sure about anymore. Did he value beauty like we did? Could we possibly trust him with our seemingly trivial desire to be immersed in creativity?
Sight unseen, we signed a lease for a little home in the Pacific Northwest. We embarked on a journey of soul recovery and moved with our desire bruised, but simmering. Hope had not eluded us completely.
The day we drove down 190th Street, God revealed himself. The lawn was a pulsing green, neon in its intensity. Towering pines filled the backyard. The landlord was a gardener and her fruit had just come into full bloom. And at the end of the block? A protected pine forest.
That little street nourished our souls back to health while God confirmed that our desire for beauty is but a reflection of his creativity embedded in his people. What failed to produce life in Turkey, grew and took root in our hearts. It would change everything for us.
* * * * *
Beth Bruno is a writer, activist, and creative in pursuit of the intersection of all three. She writes about women through the lens of ministry, exploitation, and emerging youth. Prior to receiving her MA in International Community Development, she served on staff with CRU for ten years, primarily in the Middle East. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children, enjoying the mountains and sunshine. She blogs at bethbruno.org.