Sometimes the Christian journey is framed in terms of making a decision, a commitment, to follow Jesus and his way. But we don’t live strictly by decisions, acts of the will. We don’t just make up our mind and do a certain thing. A deeper part of the self must be involved when it comes to true conversion.
One of the more prevalent forms of evangelical teaching focuses upon giving intellectual assent to a set of statements, such as “I’m a sinner” and “Jesus died for my sins.” At times, conversion is presented as simply agreeing that certain statements are true and then saying a prayer to that effect.
But we don’t change our lives through a series of thoughts. And, really, so much of the spiritual life is beyond intellectual comprehension anyway. I might agree with every single statement you make about Jesus and Christianity, but those statements will not provide an adequate explanation for the more profound mysteries of life.
In order to follow Jesus (actually, in order to make any significant change), something fundamental in a person must shift. I believe that at our core we understand what is true—and it is there, deep within us, that true conversion happens. But how often do we really access that core of the self?
This is where desire comes into the picture. Before you or I experience conversion of the whole self, we must grapple with what we truly want. What are the deepest, truest desires in me? St. Ignatius believed—and I agree (along with many others in the Christian family)—that our deepest desires are actually God’s desires.
We are made in the image of God—we are designed to be divine, you might say. And so when we strip away all the superficial wants and whims, when we let go of cultural norms, layers of social expectation, and even our own emotional/mental habits, we can tap into what we really long for.
This is why many people don’t experience conversion until they’ve hit bottom. Life circumstances can strip us down to essentials pretty quickly, and often that’s when we can ask honestly, “Okay, what is really important to me? What are my true desires?”
Spend some time this week asking yourself the question: What do I really desire?
This post is a part of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure, Week 5.