I could sense it in a conversation the other day, creeping over me like a bony hand on my shoulder. Later, I guessed it was similar to what some women feel when a confident, charming vixen sweeps into the room, swiveling all the male heads, and you’re in your sweatpants and greasy ponytail: immediate intimidation. And was that…jealousy? Ick.
I’m not as unnerved by the gorgeous as much as I am by the “Christianly” accomplished (cue my inner Pharisee). These reactions in me consistently tip me off I’m having identity issues. Like a bad game of poker, my tells always seem to run along the same lines. I feel…inadequacy. Frequent exasperation, a low-slung discouragement. Envy. Insecurity.
I’ve written before about the vital nature of understanding our “holes”; it pretty much branded itself in my mind years ago, from Tim Keller’s excellent Gospel in Life series. He outlines four general categories in which the “holes” in our hearts fall—not little divots, mind you, but sucking black holes. It’s what we crave. It’s that bottom line that persistently drives us, sucking in everything around. Keller’s core categories:
:: Approval (affirmation, love, relationships)
:: Comfort (privacy, lack of stress, freedom)
:: Control (self-discipline, certainty, standards)
:: Power (success, winning, influence)
These holes are essentially bottomless—save one particularly-shaped Antidote.
Our holes’ other alias? Idols. They wedge themselves between us and God, diverting the worship we’re constantly emitting to something created. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to guess other people’s holes. Mine tend to double as massive blindspots. (David Powlison’s X-Ray Questions have really helped me hone in on some of my own holes/idols.)
I think I’ll be wrestling with my particular holes for the entirety of my life (though in the words of G.I. Joe, now I know, and knowing is half the battle). But sometimes I hit particularly gappy places. I seem to be asking the same questions about my life, lookin’ for love in all the wrong places; filling in that sentence, If only __, my life would sing.
This morning, my bed-headed twelve-year-old stumbled into the kitchen for breakfast, in that T-shirt that makes his eyes look so startlingly blue. He slumped on a low stool, moaning as his brain booted up for the day. Because he probably won’t let me do it that much longer, I pulled his warm body close to me, inhaling the scent of his hair. He seemed to just enjoy being close; being received; wasn’t long before he was geared up for breakfast. And I thought of the Psalm: Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
It’s one of the verses I’ve come to cherish this week in the mornings, before the kids rise, in my own time to curl up and be embraced. As much havoc as my holes wreak on me, I suspect I churn out the most destructive wake on the people I love. My clawing means I trample on whatever it takes to get whatever my heart’s determined will plug the hole, much like an addict: For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).
So I’m rubbing the thumb of my brain over the words of George Mueller, the evangelist and orphanage director who cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime:
I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.
Somehow, looking to be satisfied as the starting—and continuing—point for my day is a form of soul-settling. It gives me a chance to shut the door on all the cheap imitations of what makes my life valuable, and indulge all those desires in the only thing that leaves them sated. It’s as if God’s gripping me gently by the shoulders, looking into my eyes: You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.
Between my sister’s shoulderblades is tattooed a single Hebrew word: Satisfied.
It’s not a bad way to go through life.
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