kingdom-first: on love and lust
If you are not a Christian, please stick with me. In this post I write out how I’m dealing with some of my inconsistencies as a believer. I use words like “idolatry” and “kingdom,” and I know that’s weird. It’s just time that I call myself to account for what I say I believe – since so much of what I write makes me sound so spiritual. If Jesus doesn’t bring peace, then so many of us are wasting our time. If Jesus doesn’t bring internal peace, then either He did something wrong (or nothing at all), or we believers are doing something wrong (or nothing at all).
Seth has let me sneak away to my quiet spot in this little house.
Imagine with me: I’ve sunk into the duvet on our king bed. (If you’ve been here before, you know that as we renovate, we live in the LOVE shack and sleep in its laundry room.) Maybe 15 loads of clothes surround me. I am in a cave. To my right is a mound of dirty clothes that reaches near to the ceiling. It smells of dish water and outdoor little-boy musk. The microwave teeters on the dryer as it rocks the clothes dry. The antique glass lamp shade ticks like a spinning penny with every whirl of the washer.
Seth is so kind to let me sneak away to write. He works in the kitchen, making the best chili known to any human mouth, and all three boys beg at his legs for either juice or chocolate. As he cooks, the dishes stack. Any minute there could be a crash – glass and dried food flung to the sneaky places I won’t clean until we move out.
This stage in life makes it nearly impossible to be single-minded. Is anyone hearing me on that? Can you hear me through this noise?
I come to the quietest place I can, and alongside the overwhelming house noises are the noises of worry and anxiety, complaints about my body, anticipations for tomorrow, and all the thoughts toward my lists. I hear the noise of my imagination. I, in my unrested, unquiet, and un-orderly state, am a machine for lust. I lust for possessions, vacations, a maid, better habits, newer clothes, more time to blog. I lust for your applause. I delight to hear you say “well-done.”
I’ve been reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Disciplines, and he lists Simplicity as “the inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle.” He says that “Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things.”
And I do find it very easy to call this stage psychotic. If I were to line up my concerns and shine on them a Biblical light and the truth of the gospel of grace, I would reveal that I am most often a fraud. I’m an upside-down iceberg.
*90% of the iceberg is supposed to be under the water, secret and quiet. I’ve had about 10%, if even, of my heart dipping in and out of the awareness of God’s presence and 90% of it bobbing out in public with a gong.
Richard Foster warns that anxiety is red-flag for a lack of simplicity, and simplicity is freedom, balance, and the pursuit of God’s righteousness and His kingdom. He quotes the entire passage of Matthew 6:25-33.
25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
It is in seeking His kingdom first and only that I’ll receive the simplicity that I so desire. Foster warns, also, that seeking simplicity does not lead to simplicity but can itself lead to idolatry and a great temptation for legalism. He writes that “the person who does not seek the kingdom first does not seek it at all.”
So these are my questions: What does it mean to seek Gods kingdom and His righteousness? Where is His kingdom in our dirty houses and in our daily relationships? What does simplicity look like?