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. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “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." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America."
Today, Dorothy Greco writes her story of desire on the blog.
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I don’t want to doubt.
Since I started following Jesus thirty-four years ago, God has consistently spoken to me through the written word, creation, and the faint whispers of the Spirit. Our relationship is thankfully not one way—on most days, there’s a stream of thoughts and words flowing in God’s direction. I’ve never doubted that He listens or hears me, but in the past few years, I have begun to doubt the efficacy of my prayer.
Perhaps it’s a problem I’ve created since I tend to go big when I pray. I’m not simply asking God to open up a parking spot. I’m praying for the eradication of the Ebola virus in West Africa, for an overhaul of the criminal justice system, for the church to choose holiness, and for my friend’s cancer to go away. None of these situations seem to be moving in the hoped for direction. That lack of circumstantial change can sometimes deflate my faith.
When doubt is having its way in me, I hear words like whatever come out of my mouth. I justify not praying because apparently, the frequency and fierceness of my intercession is directly connected to the level of doubt coursing through my system. Doubt is the siren which beckons me to shipwreck my faith. I fear it because I am well aware of just how far I would drift if I cut the cords which bind me to Christ.
According to theologians such as Paul Tillich, such fear is misguided. He wrote, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” The notion that doubt could be anything other than negative is new to me. I’ve always read Jesus’s words and assumed that if I doubted, He would spit me out of his mouth like cold coffee.
In the 2008 movie Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Streep plays the role of an unflinching nun who appears to live free from doubt. Her certainty compels her to make decisions which result in personal and corporate loss. Throughout the movie, she never wavers—until the final scene. There, in the presence of a tender sister, she admits between sobs, “I have such doubt.” I admired her character before, but in that moment, my dispassionate admiration transitioned to tears and affection. Radical thought—is it possible that God feels that same way toward me when I doubt?
If I could wrap my hermeneutic around the reality that God loves me and is for me even when doubt threatens to swallow me whole, it would change everything. The doubt I feel when my prayers are seemingly not answered can be like an enormous anchor that drags along the bottom, holding back the ship’s forward movement. To know that God is not displeased with me when I doubt would be like having that anchor winched up onto the deck. While the anchor would still be there, it would no longer hold the ship back.
Of late, I’ve stepped up my prayer because what more can I do when the world seems to be descending into chaos? If that descent continues, I risk having to double back thorough the deep quicksand of disappointment and doubt. But because the only real option seems to be apathy—which is not where I want to land—I continue to pray, hoping that my words will hit their mark and that doubt will no longer discourage or dissuade me from praying.
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Dorothy Littell Greco spends her days writing about faith, encouraging others as they pursue Jesus, making photographs of beautiful things, and trying to love her family well. You can find more of her Words & Images on her website, or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.