The one who wasn’t entitled.
During my time in Oxford, I was able to have two long conversations with someone who has made a lonely and difficult decision to refrain from chasing one of his strongest desires.
I’m not going to describe his struggle in detail because its not my story to tell—and because my point doesn’t depend upon the particular nature of his desire. I think most of us have something we want but cannot chase without violating a principle, standard, or commitment.
Maybe you have self-control issues with food. You want the immediate comfort of consumption, but you know you’re violating godly stewardship of your body by over-indulging.
Maybe you have a natural tendency to zone out on social media, television, or news because you’re overwhelmed with the clutter in your home. So you allow your family to live in constant visual chaos while you indulge in these escapes.
Maybe you spend too much money on material goods seeking an endorphin rush because you are living inside of a cold, touch-less marriage and feel a need to hold objects since you can’t hold a person.
Maybe you have allowed yourself to idolize worldly power and have become addicted to pseudo-Christian news that runs on fear and hate—while bastardizing the name of God.
Maybe you have another impulse struggle.
During my trip, I met someone who looked clearly at his strongest, most alluring impulse and had the courage to see it for what it was.
And instead of finding ways to excuse it—instead of saying that he was a victim to someone else’s cruelty at some point in the past and therefore deserved relief—instead of trying to force some sort of godliness into his own self-medication—he was brave enough to assess the whole of his bruised story, the whole of his longing, and walk the lonely, broken way of chasing union with an invisible God.
I can’t tell you how moving this was to me.
I don’t have the same inclination he does. My struggle is different. But watching someone have the humility to evaluate his own life with such defenseless realism impacted me profoundly.
He stood in the current of his own pain and desires and said, “Who is this God who loves me? What does he want from me? I am yielded, though it hurts—for there is beauty beyond the present.”
As someone who has felt regularly alone and discouraged by entitlement culture, I can’t tell you how it shook me to watch this one man describe what he is learning from a different way of living.
I think maybe it gave me a glimpse of the long-lost-concept of dying to self and how if it is done inside of a relationship with Jesus (and not mere asceticism), it can point those who watch to the Kingdom.