The Twice-Removed Desire

This post was originally published June 22, 2012. For an update on how I feel about Christianity now, see the post “When God Spoke to Me.” This is part of the archive restoration project

Several years ago, I wanted to want to care about following God. I didn’t care about following God, and I didn’t even want to care. This knowledge, though, kept me praying. There was no emotion connected to my prayers, I knew they were half-hearted, but I was honest about my insincerity with God. I prayed for the want to want him, and trusted that want would come.

This fact came back to me today because my counselor praised my strong will. I was sharing with her an experience I’d had in resisting temptation, and described the difficulty I had in forcing the devil to flee. My strategy was, in every moment of temptation, to turn to God in prayer, asking him to give me his strength to resist it. I did not ask for the strength or to be strengthened. I needed his strength, and this alone helped me to resist. My counselor said to me, “while you do not deserve credit for the strength, you deserve credit for surrendering your will to God so he had the opportunity to win the battle raging in you.”

I wish I could take the credit, but as I was talking to God later for humility despite her compliments, he reminded me about the twice-removed stage. I didn’t want to rely on God, I didn’t even want to want it, but I knew I should, so I prayed for that want to change. This prayer was answered, and now I’m in a place where I sincerely and wholeheartedly care so much about following God. Now there is little question when I follow a command from the Infinite One, because he has been faithful in developing a willing heart in me.

When someone has a twice-removed desire, the desire cannot be changed without the help of God. This is because there is no willpower behind a change without an emotional connection to it. I’ve worked with several people struggling with temptations and sins, and they cannot resist because their hearts aren’t in it. I can’t change their hearts or force them to stop sinning. They can’t change their own hearts, and God doesn’t change a person’s heart without getting jurisdiction from said person because of his love. It is easy to close out the conviction to ask for a want to want God. It’s easier to ask to want when the want to want is granted. When want is finally able to be asked for with sincerity, it is given, and the heart has matured enough to be whole in its love for God.

Only when this is worked through can a will be truly surrendered to God. I’m sure for some this stage is very quick and almost unnoticed, and do not intend to claim this stage of growth happens the same for everyone. All I seek to do is share the lesson: if I don’t want to know God, or even want to want to know him, prayer is not hindered. I don’t have to be willing to fully embrace him yet, I only have to be willing to ask. It’s like the awkward stage of friendship before getting to know someone well, with uncertainty, but planning get-togethers. The stage passes, but it must take place.

Two Obstacles to being a Selfless Steward

This post was re-uploaded in 2019 as part of the Archive Restoration Project. I think it shows how deeply I was attached to the idea of martyrdom seven years ago.

In response to my post on being unattached to material things, I received the following comment:

“I fully understand that all things belong to God, and it has helped me through a great many spills and accidental destruction.  How do you couple this with God’s directive to be good stewards with what He has given to us?”

It is not the first time someone has come against my habit of being unattached to my stuff with the question of good stewardship. The short answer is this: being a good steward of the things God has given me should never conflict with my being unattached to the thing itself. These two things can become an excuse for neglecting one over the other:

1. Pride

If something is to be broken, disobeying God with that thing won’t make it any safer. In other words, to not trust God with the fate of my things is to think of myself as better than someone else. In truth, mistakes happen and things break. I’m no less likely to slip and break something than someone else who is using it. To be protective of my stuff is to be arrogant, placing myself in a position above other human beings, more capable than they to take good care of something. To give away or lend the things I have is to be humble, both in trusting God and in trusting others.

What’s mine is yours, for it is not mine. It is God’s, and God’s infinite love indicates sharing and multiplying. To have a good business, I must, like the servants in the parable of the talents, work to multiply the money and assets I have been entrusted with. Being a good steward takes hard work, and businessmen know pride doesn’t go very far in developing relations and utilizing connections and assets. A good steward recognizes he is a steward and that his successes in financial growth are the gain of the business owner and investors. Pride would lead the steward to hiding away money for himself or attempting to take over the company, so selflessness fits stewardship nicely.

2. Ownership

Throughout history and in many parts of the world today, Christian belief has cost pain and death. If I must endure such things, how am I being a good steward of the body God has given me for my time on earth? A.W. Tozer wrote,

“We need be no more ashamed of our body—the fleshly servant that carries us through life—than Jesus was of the humble beast upon which He rode into Jerusalem. ‘The Lord hath need of [him]’ may well apply to our mortal bodies.”

So I’m left with a seeming contradiction. Be a good steward of my body, keep it healthy, be a living sacrifice to God, and make my hands vessels of healing and help to others. Yet if I must die for righteousness, I must allow my body to be broken and killed. How can I call myself a good steward if I allow such a thing to happen to the body God has given me to be a good steward of? Because my body is not mine, it is his. I must trust him with the results of my unselfishness, even if it brings me pain, for I am doing the will of the owner. It’s like a businessman gave me an asset and commanded me to give it to his enemies for destruction. My disobedience is worse than trying to protect the asset.

Trust. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to avoid selfishness, pride, and a lack of faith in God’s ability to work things out better than I can.