The Weakest Reed

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.

October 3, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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What do we really mean when we say we must proclaim the truth at all costs?

(Please see the note at the bottom of this post.) Last week, autumn ran a high fever.  I took oddly sweat-prickled walks in an environment that would normally be associated with cr-words like crisp and crunch and crumble, used interchangeably … Continue reading

July 28, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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A Bible story that would make for some sensational reality tv

There is an ancient story of a time when God, having grown tired of the wayward tendencies of his people the Israelites, uses the life of the prophet Hosea as a real-life object lesson. God commands Hosea to marry a … Continue reading

July 14, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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When you find yourself in THAT place. Again. Still. (Or: It’s ok if everything’s not ok)

In the same way any word transforms itself into a virtually indistinguishable collection of lines and curves after having been written over and over again, I’ve begun to wonder what exactly is the meaning of that phrase so often dispensed … Continue reading

June 24, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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When they say you’re a new creation and you just don’t really feel that way

This week my kids and I threw ourselves and some lunch into the car to gather with a friend and her kids.  As happens often to the conversations between mothers at home with their young children, our words were both … Continue reading

June 2, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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On having faith, being disappointed and how it all just kind of sucks sometimes

When I hear a statement like “It was even better than I could have possibly imagined,” I find myself suspecting it likely has more to do with a lack of imagination than the quality of the actual experience.  More often … Continue reading

May 27, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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What if the best thing we have going for us isn’t that we’re special but simply that we’re available?

The last couple of weeks I’ve had a series of panic-inducing dreams, waking regularly gasping for breath.  Some nights I have been trapped in our house, unable to get out. Others, I have an opportunity to pursue something amazing outside … Continue reading

May 16, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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When you’re not the “good” Christian

I have a very difficult time shutting off my brain.  I analyze.  I ponder. I percolate. I ruminate. I wonder as I wander. It just never stops.  And I’m an introvert so without some space and time to organize thoughts … Continue reading

April 30, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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Hitting publish on this one, hoping that somehow cements it in my soul.

There is a creature endemic to darkness, one that can make itself appear innocuous, ingratiating itself to us with false piety but whose entire purpose it is to keep us there.  In shadowy places, Shame makes itself our close and … Continue reading

April 7, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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It’s not looking so good for those who have it all together.

This is the ugliest scar.  The one covered self-consciously, forearm drawn close over the vulnerable spot: I felt cast-off and forgotten.  And when I dusted myself off, I looked around to see that there was no one in particular to … Continue reading

March 25, 2014
by Rachel Gustafson
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Lately I’ve been feeling like my dreams are no longer something to nurture or indulge, but instead something to be  pinched between two fingers, picked-up by the tail, and investigated at a healthy distance until dropped into proper containment.

Suddenly, I’m 35 and sheepish about sharing my desires, a bit embarrassed to lay open my palm and reveal that I still clutch something as frivolous as wishes. I’m wondering if hopes are too volatile, a liability to the stability of the life we’re so busy trying to keep tacked firmly to the ground.  I worry that wanting something else might give the impression that I’m not grateful for what I already have.

I don’t know if it’s my age or stage of life  or maybe it’s just unique to crazy, old me but I feel as if desire and aspiration have become suspect when just a few years ago they were the fuel that we were told would take us to the stars.  Those stars that seemed so dazzling and noble a destination 10 years ago now seem silly or maybe even dangerous.   I grow irresolute thinking that to fire-up my engines might be too difficult a disturbance for others who share my orbit.  It’s ok to “dream” within a certain safe perimeter- retirement, conventional vacations, kitchen remodeling- but beyond that, any rigorous wishing or wondering or wandering often seems to evoke discomfort or even fear and sometimes defensiveness (why aren’t I, isn’t this, isn’t it enough?) from those around me.

Or maybe it’s not just me?  I’ve had conversations with a few others, women in particular, in which we have a difficult time coming up with a list of hopes for ourselves.  We can talk for hours about dreams we have for our children- opportunities we’d like them to have, specific ways we’d like to help develop their talents, plans to ensure that everything that is unique and special about them is cultivated to proper fruition- but when it comes to ourselves, we find we are tongue-tied.  I think the leashes on our tongues are thoughts like these:  What do I have left after all of this?  If I were a good wife or a good mother or a good Christian I wouldn’t bother to distinguish mine from theirs.  Am I being selfish?  And already I have so much, isn’t this enough?  Why can’t I just be content?

A proper understanding of desire can be especially difficult to arrive at when coming from a Christian perspective.  The word “desire” can barely float to the surface without immediately being muddied by other darker associations like burning, temptation, flesh, sinful.  It feels to me that Christian culture has sometimes run the risk of making desire most often suspicious and contentment most often a goal.  But isn’t it true that contentment can be just as misleading as desire?  To be content with the wrong thing is at least as dangerous as to desire the wrong thing.  I wonder how often it is the “good” things which make it all the harder to pursue the right thing or the “bad” things which drive us to cling to the best One.

I know that desires can be godly because God who is whole and complete unto Himself did not create us humans or the world because He needed to but instead because He desired to.  And He continues to desire us! Desire existed before sin and can exist apart from sin as well.  The Song of Solomon graphically depicts but also celebrates the desire of a lover and his beloved which is also representative of the relationship of Christ and the church.     

Proverbs tells us that hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.  Actually Proverbs doesn’t need to tell us that, we all know it to be true from personal experience.  But somehow, to hear it as an expected and perhaps even appropriate pattern of human experience is so affirming.  God tells us in Psalms that He opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing and that He satisfies the the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  Desire can be painful and even scary because it is a recognition of where and what we feel lacking.  But without desire- without acknowledgement of our hunger and our thirst- what movement would there be towards God, towards good, towards anything?  In perfect contentment, we would be completely still.  But God places desire in us so that we would seek, reach out and grasp what is good!   Desire is the heartbeat of creativity, reconciliation, reformation and renewal, all pursuits which can reflect the character of God and which can all lead us deeper into Him.

When I think about God, I fear I think of Him too often as withholding.  I am afraid to ask because what if He says no?  Or what if I ask for the wrong thing?  And lots of times I am asking for the wrong thing. But if I am asking the right Person, He will make my joy complete nonetheless.  I am an imperfect mother whose own life is sometimes subsumed by my desire to see my children’s hopes and dreams fulfilled, but He is a perfect Father who wants to give even better things to those who ask Him.  The more I read what He says and come to know Him as He is, the more I understand that it doesn’t matter what I ask,  He wants to fill up my desire.  He won’t always give me exactly what I ask for, but His answer to my every request is better than that: To pour out His perfect goodness into each part of me and my life that I bring to Him to fill.

Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:5

Check out a great quote by CS Lewis on desire.