A friend of mine told me about this podcast. He compared it to therapy. But cheaper. And it was like giving language to an experience. Like when you learn the word déjà vu and you sigh with satisfaction because it all makes sense now.
In the podcast, Rob Bell interviews Peter Rollins – two intellectual lightening bolts who start wildfires with their words. In it, Rollins talks about love and its theological, political, and personal implications.
It’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about. A subject that I can process because I’m finally able to swim. While before I was frantically trying to keep my head above water, now I can tread. And float. And look around at the landscape. And I see everyone swimming with a partner. Some are affectionate and teenagery close. Others are distracted and distant. But almost everyone is with someone.
And the more I think about my singularity, the more I want a swimming partner. Someone to share in the experience. To splash around with.
Rollins talks about the idea of desire. He says the object of our desire isn’t what we we desire. It’s the desiring, the pursuit, the struggle. Because once we get what we desire, we no longer desire it. (Mind. Blown).
Timothy Keller says it another way. In a sermon entitled “The Two Great Tests” he quotes Cynthia Heimel as saying, “I pity celebrities, no I really do – Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbara Streisand, were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful. I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you he grants you your deepest wish and then laughs merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself. You see Sly, Bruce, and Barbara wanted fame. They worked, they pushed and the morning after each of them became famous they wanted to take an overdose. Because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness had happened and they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.”
Keller, Bell, and Rollins would agree that only God can satisfy the desire. Rollins says that Christianity is the only place where we find an intersection between getting the object of our desire and the impossibility of getting it. “In the very struggle of life, you touch the absolute. The object of your desire and the object cause of your desire. Satisfaction is found in the dissatisfaction.” In other words, only God, or love, gives you the object you desire, and a lifetime to explore the complexity of it.
Maybe, God created a world and an existence in which we not only need struggle, but in fact thrive under it. Because we are most fully alive in the struggle, the stress, the desire. The struggle for what we want is what we want. We want the easy button, but that’s not what we need.
Which brings me back to love. I’ve heard a handful of women blithely say in their singleness, “At least I have Jesus.” And while the sentiment is sweet and honorable, I kind of roll my eyes. Because the last time I checked, Jesus doesn’t spoon. Or watch the kids while you sleep off a migraine. Or excuse himself from the table when you tell that tired joke at the dinner party. Again.
But maybe what they mean is that they’re trying to be content in their situation. That their life isn’t empty just because their bed is. Maybe love is bigger than that.
Honestly, it’s confusing. I was so set on being strong. Independent. Bold/badass. (I mean, who needs a man when you have YouTube to help you fix everything?) I put walls around my heart.
Then desire tiptoed through the back door. Sure, I can swim by myself, but now I don’t want to.
And maybe what feels like weakness is actually humanness. Because God created us for connection. For love. For desire. So, I’m left in the tension. I’m learning to embrace the struggle, the stress, the dynamic. To be content in the midst of the journey. To live in the singular and the plural.