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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Found Wanting: Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong."

jenmichel@me.com

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.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa."

Today Sarah Van Beveren writes her story of desire.

* * * * *

I have always wanted to be strong.

Strong, meaning that I had no need for help from others. At some point in life, having it all together became a point of pride, and vulnerability came to embody strength’s opposite – weakness. To admit that I desired support would be to confess that I needed, and that dependency felt shameful.

A friend approached me on a recent Sunday morning because our earlier conversation left her feeling concerned. My heart seemed heavy, and she’d like to come over to pray for me.

Instinctive responses are revealing, and in this instance they did not disappoint. I laughed out loud at the thought, blurting out, “Really? Do I seem that bad?” And with those six words I peeled back the thin veneer of pride I like to enjoy on a Sunday morning. Underneath I found more self-importance than I would like to admit.

What was most surprising about this encounter is that I have spent the past six months discovering and developing an appetite for prayer. God has been working on me, not letting me ignore the gnawing feeling that surfaces, most often when things are quiet.

The feeling that I am wanting.

What’s more, I had been praying for this very thing – for increased opportunity to pray with others, for more time together on our knees, for intercessors. And yet I didn’t recognize her request for prayer as an answer to my own. Yes, I wanted to pray for the needs of others. I wanted to rejoice with those offering praises.

But as in most things, I was looking to be the warrior ushering in change, and despite all that I was learning, had refused to see that prayer was as important for myself as for those I longed to intercede for. Even divine help had become an indication of weakness.

In his book A Praying Life, Paul Miller observes that, “private, personal prayer is one of the last great bastions of legalism.”

Why is it so difficult to accept that we do, in fact, require help? Our aversion to this admission stands in our way of seeking God. We try so hard to save ourselves, to obtain the good life by the work of our own hands, and this belief would mean that we have no need for anything outside of our own effort.

And yet Jesus tells us that he is the vine; we are the branches. “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

To desire to live this life of faith – to desire Christ – is to not only accept, but to embrace, our dependency on him. To want is to be vulnerable, but the only object worth desiring never disappoints and can be sought without fear.

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul’s exhortation to us is that when we are weak, then we are strong. Though counterintuitive, it is truth we can rest in.

I am strong, yet it is not my arm that carries me, but that of sufficient grace.

* * * * *

Sarah Van Beveren is a thirty something mom to three little girls with boundless energy, wife to a suit wearing husband who keeps the coffee brewing, and the best kind of legalist– one in recovery and rocked by grace. She blogs at sarahvanbeveren.com, or you can connect with her on Twitter here. (twitter.com/sarahvanbeveren)