Whenever I think of these words I imagine a bloodied, sandy Romeo on his knees holding a gun out to Tybalt.* That moment on the beach of Verona, when Romeo is so willing to give himself over to Tybalt, captures something of the connotation I feel is wrapped up in many Christian’s use of the word. When they tell you to find satisfaction in God, I feel they are telling you to commit an act of abdication.
Alright. Maybe that analogy is too strong. But it sure feels like this is what is implied. Anytime I’ve strongly expressed some sort of desire in Christian circles (frankly, anything I express, I express strongly), someone around me will tell me that I just need to “find my satisfaction in God.” Let me tell you, few things get under my skin quite as much as that does.
In that context, what they are implying is that being satisfied with God means having no other strong desires. They are telling me that I should be so full from him that there is no room for anything else. Let me tell you, if being satisfied by God means I won’t desire as much out of life, out of myself, and out of others as I do, I’d rather not have it. Thank you very much.
Desire, healthy desire at the very least, is invigorating and enriching. My deep and driving hunger is one of the most fundamental aspects of who I am. It is not something I’m willing to give up in exchange for some sort of placid contentment.
For a little while now I’ve been pondering the possibility that this is the wrong way to think about finding satisfaction in God.
It all started a few Mondays back when I visited this church group for twenty-somethings. The discussion that night was on the meaning of the word glory. A key point that the teacher wanted us to take away from our dialogue is that taking great pleasure in God is an essential aspect of what it means to glorify God. He wrapped up the night reading a portion of one of Jesus’ prayers in which Jesus states his desire that those he loves would share in his relationship with the Father
The teacher said, “Do you hear what he’s saying? He’s saying that before the world was, they were satisfied together. He wants us to be satisfied with them. Satisfied.” By the way he said that word; I knew he meant it in a different way than I normally hear it. There was no suggestion of abdication or hint of stagnancy. His tone was drenched with the suggestion of pleasure. It bespoke of the satisfaction that comes from a desire being actively fulfilled.
For weeks now, I’ve kept hearing him saying that word like that over and over in my mind.
It has struck a chord with me because I feel like that’s the kind of satisfaction I seek in my relationships with others. It’s what drives almost everyone close to me a little crazy. It’s why I’ve been told by so many of my friends and family members that I’m exhausting. I don’t just want to be with them, I want to connect and dig deep. I want our time together to be entirely fulfilling in such a way that time seems to slow and I leave vibrating. Okay… It’s a bit of a high standard. But it does happen and I live for those moments.
The thing about these moments, these instances with friends or family when our time together is completely satisfying, is that they are always more than I even hoped for. They engage me and delight me in ways that I couldn’t have predicted beforehand. I learn more about them and about myself than I expected. In this way, satisfaction like this is always a discovery. It fulfills my hunger in a way that both satiates me and expands my appetite.
I think this is closer to what it means to truly find satisfaction in God. He satisfies us through allowing us to simultaneously discover more of who he is and who we are. The more pleasure we take in him, and this relationship, the more we want to share in the beauty of the life and world he intends for us. Therefore, instead of quelling our desires, this enlarges them. Instead of making us want less, this makes our wants better.
What I realized is that, my aversion to how I’ve been told to find satisfaction in God, had prevented me from recognizing how he does satisfy me. What I’ve discovered is that satisfaction has always been a key element in our relationship. What I have found throughout my life as a Christian is that, when I delighted in our relationship, my passions become brighter and more refined. I better understand who I am and what I truly want.
The next time I’m told to find my satisfaction in God, when I’ve expressed a healthy desire, I might tell them that this is what that actually looks like.
*Yeah, I might have watched Baz Luhrmann’s modern version of Romeo + Juliet just a few too many times. I may in fact be able to recite the whole movie. But, come on, the casting, directing, and score are absolutely breathtaking.