Through The Thicket

I'm so tired. I want to give in. 

When we're weary in body, we waver in our spirit. Our desires fall into the mud, and the carnal "us" takes over. The extra drink we know we shouldn't have. The bit of food that we know we should resist. The trashy program we know hinders our minds and imaginations.

With so much at our fingertips, via the Internet, television, movies, gaming systems, food, drink, and so on, it's easy to convince ourselves we deserve an extra bit as a reward for our hard day.

But it's at this point when something good can bend toward the ugly.

Thomas a Kempis, the great Christian mystic, reminds us in his classic work The Imitation of Christ that if a person satisfies "his desires, remorse of conscience overwhelms him because he followed his passions and they did not lead to the peace he sought.

"True peace of heart, then, is found in resisting passions, not in satisfying them. There is no peace in the carnal man, in the man given to vain attractions, but there is peace in the fervent and spiritual man."

But Thomas’s words here do not direct us to legalism. Rather, they steer us towards the person for whom we should pant: Jesus Christ. David’s words in the Psalm haunt us in a world of machines and screens. We are not familiar with animal desire. 

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.”

—Psalms 42:1 (ESV)

How intense a thirst it must be for a deer to pant—for the deer runs and bounds, never seeming to tire. And yet, it not only thirsts, it pants. It is tired. It has run long, up mountains, through streams, over rocks, through the thicket in search of refreshment. 

To what or to whom do we turn when our days fill with mountain climbing, stream crossings, thicket navigating? Do we merely satisfy the immediate desire of our flesh? Or are we panting for something more?

Timothy Willard is the author of three books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life. He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. He lived in Oxford, England for two years studying beauty in the works of C.S. Lewis. He earned his PhD in Theology under the supervision of world-renowned theologian Alister McGrath. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.