Archive for May, 2012
After being reminded of it by Capon, I got a couple chapters through Charles William’s The Figure of Beatrice before I had to admit that I just don’t know Dante well enough to deserve it. Maybe again some time later.
Nevertheless, I came across this interesting passage:
St. Augustine is reported to have said that he often could not make adulterers understand that they where doing wrong. There was perhaps more excuse for them than the great doctor altogether guessed, especially if among the cares of the church (and there was every excuse for him) he had forgotten his African love, or had perhaps loved her without the quality of the new life. However much excuse, they were still wrong. But perhaps denunciation is not the best way of correcting the error; or perhaps the error cannot be properly corrected until jealousy is denounced as strongly as adultery (whether with or without divorce).
-Charles Williams, The Figure of Beatrice, p.50-ish
Williams, like Dante, sees in romantic love a divine dimension beyond just raw lust. There is that too, but that isn’t all there is and some of what drives our desire for the other (be it the mystery of the female figure or whatnot) is really quite special and in it’s own category. He sees Augustine, for all his greatness, being a bit allergic to this truth due to his circumstances.
Here and in other places he iterates, and Capon follows suite in Bed and Board, that divorce is actually impossible. It doesn’t do what it claims to do. The relationship with the spouse cannot be metaphysically annihilated, only neglected or nurtured.
The last sentence is of interest to me as something Girard would whole-heartedly agree with. The reason we cannot preach effectively against lust is because we have failed to preach against jealousy. The second part of the ten commandments are inverted. The tenth is the most important, not the least. Instead, we have chopped it off as a given. Envy is our economic, social, and emotional engine.
The structure of the Summa [of Aquinas] and of the universe, is dynamic. It is not like information in a library, but like blood in a body.
-Peter Kreeft, from the introduction to his abridged Summa, emphasis mine.
Aquinas the ox,
enthroned in some grand seat,
angels swarming ’round him,
into his tonsured gourd.
How saintly a thinker,
that men today
should aspire to his level of scholarly output,
to be swarming ’round their heads as well
as they take out a second mortgage
for some distant graduate school
Here is another fantastic (and relieving) passage from Capon here that deserves to be reprinted. (Also, Charles Williams strikes again with two instances of “coinherence” in this passage.)
In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, it is reported that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost sat down once and had lunch with Abraham in the plains of Mamre. The table has been the hallmark of the Trinity ever since. The world is about the mystery by which the created order of pieces and parts is to become the image of the coinherence of the three divine Persons; about the forming of the Body of Christ, the building of the City of God. And the Board is the first of the places at which it happens. If that sounds a little fancy for your own table full of upset glasses and brawling children, remember Abraham: He set God the best table he could, but his wife embarrassed him by being rude. From his point of view, the occasion was hardly a success. As it turned out, however, it didn’t matter; he became the father of the people of the coinherence anyway. The City of God began with a meal that didn’t go right; your spilled milk isn’t going to hold up the building of it too much.
-Robert Capon, Bed and Board, p.82
(This one is a bit rough and I found it sitting in my notebook gathering dust since it was written during a long hospital visit a couple months ago.)
The glory of man is his ability to compartmentalize. This allows him to fight ferociously until his sword handle is fused to his palm (1 Samuel 23:10). It enables a soldier to shoot and suffer fire all night long without being distracted by thoughts of his wife and children back home.
Put to ill use, it allows the same man seemingly faithful in a thousand ways to have an affair on the side. He is so good at dividing reality, it is as if the other woman still doesn’t exist when he’s in his wife’s arms.
A kindly man can be wholly empathetic and then walk away and cease to give a damn. This can be the source of both cold false love and astonishing bravery.
Someone is always using knowledge of a man’s vices to wholly discredit his life’s work, but this practice is often illegitimate and dishonest. Augustine had a sexual problem; does that negate his saintly life? Some of it, ye, all of it, no. Luther spouted hate in his senile old age. Does that redact all those prior years of grace and bravery? Barth had a mistress (maybe), so everything he wrote about God is just a bad joke, right?
All of these people, including every saint on the books was a sinner until the day he or she died. But dirt bags are the only sorts of folks Jesus saves. And save them all he did. And rise to often greatness while still living on this old earth while their eyes were fixed on him, they did that too.
These attackers have real ammunition, but they always aim for the whole continent of a person’s life and work assuming their one bomb will vaporize a thousand square miles and send the whole thing to the bottom of the ocean. They forget that the glory of man is his power to divide his mind and give undivided attention.
This is Adam’s lot. Eve was given other more balanced treasures.
I think one could argue that man should NOT be divided and certainly that is often the case, but I think it must still be a pre-fall power, something tied to the heart of creativity. It gets twisted and corrupted and abused to enable great sin and shield the horror we perpetuate from our own consciences. However, it also frees us from chains, focuses the light we receive like a lens, and makes possible the Bach Partita for Violin, The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Apollo 11, Aquinas’s Summa, and Robin Hood’s archery.
Lewis’s space trilogy is often forgotten in the shadow of the Chronicles of Narnia. There are many reasons for this: It’s confusing at times, the first book is the weakest (preventing people from continuing), it doesn’t appeal to children and it feels a bit too influenced by Charles Williams. The third and final book in the series, That Hideous Strength is still by far the best and can be read all on it’s own.
Somehow my mother gave me these books to read when I was about 13. The first book was fairly forgettable. The second, Perelandra seemed to drag on and on in the middle and then… WHAT!!! This book sticks in my mind so strongly because of it’s climax. It’s the first (and maybe the last) time I’ve ever been truly SHOCKED at way a story turned. I remember sitting in the chair in my bedroom some quiet summer afternoon and standing up with wide eyes. Holy smokes. Dare I even say what it is lest I spoil it for someone who hasn’t read it?
*** Spoiler alert ***
The hero, Ransom, is stranded on Venus. His job is to talk the Eve character on this new world into keeping God’s command and not falling into sin. Arguing with him is essentially the devil, possessing Dr. Weston, another man from earth. They argue back and forth. Sometimes Ransom’s reasoning appears to have the upper hand. At other times the evil force appears to be gaining ground with her. The problem is, Ransom is growing increasingly weary. He can’t sleep and the evil seems tireless. The Eve character is close to falling. It drags on and on – so much talking. How on earth is this going to be resolved? Lewis is famous for being a Christian apologist and one of the most brilliant and well-read men of the 20th century. Isn’t his hero going to come up with some sort of clever way to talk down the devil’s advocate? Ha. That’s what you think.
Suddenly, Ransom wakes up one morning and realizes what he must do. He must KILL the evil man, with his BARE HANDS. What follows is a brutal strangulation attempt and chase. Ransom is permanently wounded, but completes his task. Maybe someone saw that coming, but I didn’t. It still gives me shivers many years later.
Now we come to see the divine nature of Jesus here. The time for sadness is over. For a moment now, he is going to give us a hint of what the power of the resurrection is really like. Jesus commands the dead Lazarus in the same tone of voice as he earlier commanded the storm to still earlier when he was on the boat.
Imagine yourself for a moment as something else in nature. Can you imagine being a rock? I think it would be a very boring existence, just being a stone there, maybe as part of the pavement of a road if you’re lucky. I think I would get pretty sleepy. But then Jesus speaks up, WHOA! What was that?? Holy smokes, that is the voice of my creator. That rock isn’t asleep anymore. That wind that was howling and just doing its thing on the sea of Galilee earlier? It stopped on a dime. Jesus holds sway over all of nature.
The same goes for dead bodies. Notice how much Lazarus had to DO to wake up. How hard did he have to work? Did he hear Jesus’s voice and (fortunately) decide to come out and see him? Of course not. He was a corpse.
The disciples did not yet fully understand this at the time. Martha confessed her faith that Jesus was the Messiah and could easily have healed Lazarus earlier, but it hasn’t entered her imagination yet that he can just as easily heal him after the fact. Her faith is about to be expanded.
These next few things I have to say about the subject are a mix of my own thoughts and some some commentary by theologian Robert Capon, a writer I’ve been influenced by quite a bit. These aren’t really my ideas, but they make me very excited to be a Christian!
For Lazarus to stay dead was a metaphysical impossibility! You can’t get away from a love that will not let you go. When Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life says, “Lazarus, come forth!”, the rest of the story doesn’t depend on Lazarus. Jesus wasn’t dealing with someone who just needed a pep talk to get their act together. He was dealing with a dead body.
You remember when Martha was worried about opening up the tomb because of the terrible smell? She spoke the whole truth not only about Lazarus but about every one of us in particular and about the human race in general. ‘Lord, by now we stink.’ We have been dead four days, four thousand days, four hundred thousand times four thousand days. In the midst of all our life we have been in death. And in the midst of that abiding death we have been in Nothing. Knee-deep in it, waist-deep in it, up to our noses and over our heads in Not-a-Thing.
But Jesus shouts to us in the mire to wake us up, to pull us up. Making things jump out of nothing is God’s favorite act. He creates us out of it (ex nihilo) and he raises us up from in. Jesus came to raise the dead. Not to improve the improvable, not to perfect the perfectible, not to teach the teachable. That stuff doesn’t work and he knows it. Those things only work on nice health people, but that’s not us. We’re dead, dead in our sin and helpless to even role over. But he, the Son of God is our total help.
He holds us now, even as he held Lazarus in the tomb and kept his body from decaying so that he could wake him back up and show the Glory of God to all the people around watching. A few years later, Lazarus kicked the bucket again and was buried for a long time, just like we will be. But because Christ has conquered death, he will hold us in his love even then and raise us to eternal life at the end of days.. The seventh sign of John was the raising of Lazarus. But that miracle was resuscitation back into the fallen world. Jesus’ own resurrection, the one that we follow him in, is a resurrection into a deathless world. That is our permanent hope in Christ.
Now, I know this is a Sunday and you’ve all shown up in a church building, so one might be able to assume that everyone here more or less believes all this stuff in the Bible about Jesus. You may be confused about how many of these stories (or my explanations!) you believe or not. If you think this account about Jesus raising some guy from the dead a long time ago is only a myth, then congratulations – you are part of a large company when it comes to the entire world.
Now I could try to show you archeological evidence proving that Jesus really existed and was held in amazingly high regard. There are old manuscripts that have been dug up dating the book of John from the first century. Some folks really get a kick out of that sort of thing, but I doubt any of those things mean anything to you today. Honestly, they don’t to me. The reason I find this story about Jesus so compelling is the picture of unmerited grace and unaided power it provides. When I get angry at my kids (and there are four of them now, so there is plenty of opportunity to completely lose my gourd), or when I fight with my wife about something stupid, when that happens I feel like a dirtbag. The same goes for when I feel lazy at work. I can make excuses like complaining that I don’t have enough money or time to do a good job at (fill in the blank), or blame my problems on other people. I don’t buy the modern wisdom that this guilt I feel is just some kind of social conditioning or imaginary religious oppression. I know what’s beautiful when I see it and I know what’s ugly. So do you, right? And in myself I see a whole lot of ugly, a whole lot of decay. My heart is still beating and I’m walking around, but it’s like a prelude to death. I’m up to my eyeballs in shortcomings and seriously, it’s not getting any better! You can “get religion” and that won’t help – I got it when I was young– you just might notice it a little more if you do.
But if there is any meaning in this life, if there is a God who cared enough about our race to make it out of nothing, who cares enough to sustain MY little life here and let me keep breathing, then he must love me very much indeed. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he wasn’t playing the role of a life coach but rather a death-defying Messiah, whether Lazarus deserved it or not. (Hint: He didn’t deserve it and I definitely don’t and neither do you.) But that sort of love is the only kind worth having. Christ alone dispenses that to me, to you, every day. I’m certain of it.
This is a rich passage (John 11:1-46) and there are a ton of things we could look at today. I would like to just touch upon a couple aspects. The first is the emotional outburst of Jesus when he wept at the tomb of Lazarus. If John thought it worth mentioning in his highly edited account, it must be significant.
If you’ve ever played a round of bible trivia, I’m sure you’ve come across the fact that John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the New Testament. “Jesus wept”. Think about it for a moment though. Who was God? Who was there at the creation of the universe and knew the entirety of the future? Jesus! Shouldn’t he have been as cool as a cucumber in the face of death? So what’s with the crying? Was he just faking it? He couldn’t have seriously been sad, could he? Wasn’t he about to fix everything! Was it just some sort of act?
I remember being confused about this when I was young, and even sometimes today it makes me raise an eyebrow and reconsider what I believe. Some people have used this sort of emotional outburst from Jesus to try and show that he wasn’t really God. Sure, he was a pretty special guy who did miracles and taught some hidden truths about heaven and such, but if he were really God, he wouldn’t have needed to get upset about anything. (And this is by no means the ONLY time Jesus got upset, annoyed, or even angry about something!)
Consider what it would be like if you were playing a game of poker and were fortunately dealt a straight flush. Would you be sad? Of course not. You’ve got the winning hand and you can pull in a lot of chips if you can just look nonchalant for a few minutes. Jesus had the trump card over death – the power to bring Lazarus back at a command. In fact, he had planned from several days earlier to do just that! Was Jesus just playing games with us?
I believe that to resolve these questions we must go back to the doctrine of the incarnation. We as Christians believe that Jesus Christ was 100% fully God, but also 100% fully man. Not 50/50. Not God dressed up in a human body. Not a guy filled with some of God’s power. He was (and is) one person with two natures: A divine nature and a human nature.
Jesus as God was eternal, here forever since the beginning. Jesus as Man was temporal, on earth for just a few years in the first century. Jesus as God was infinite, knowing all the past and future in every imaginable sense and more. Jesus as man had eyes, ears, hands, mind, and body just like we do. When he helped Joseph build a table in the carpentry shop, he only had two hands to hold the wood with. When he had a long day, he ended up tired and hungry. None of this was fake; it was completely natural for him. Unlike us though, he was uncorrupted by sin. Doing the will of his father was his only delight.
You won’t find a one-off bible verse to fully explain this idea of the two natures of Christ, but it’s something that Christians thinkers and leaders had been puzzling over from the very beginning. Most of it was all hashed out in a meeting called the Council of Chalcedon that took place in 451 A.D. Nearly all Christians of every flavor have held to this God-man explanation about who Jesus was ever since then.
This isn’t just an old idea to make sense of some confusing scripture passages. A right understanding of who Jesus really was and who WE really are is not at all something you can assume that we all have a handle on. In our modern world, there is a lot of confusion about whether what goes on inside our minds is entirely physical or something soulful or spiritual. Many scientists and psychologists today say that faith in God is just a curious combination of chemicals inside your brain. Some Christians say the utter opposite – that, for example, depression is entirely the result of sinful unbelief and can’t possibly have anything to do with stress, or diet, or sleep or medication. Jesus will have none of these divisions – serving as our mediator by being just like us, and just like God.
Some Buddhists say that someone who is properly enlightened has no need to cry or grieve at a funeral. I think sometimes that is what we expect of Jesus. But God seemed to think grief was entirely called for at times! Jesus wasn’t a holy robot unaffected by the lives of people around him. When Mary fell at his feet crying, he empathized with her and cried too. He affirmed her anguish. It was the right thing to do. Jesus never did anything wrong! When he arrived at the tomb and came face to face with the death of a close friend, he was upset. Jesus hated death and promised to destroy it. It was JUST for him to be trouble when it touched him and those around him.
Remember it is the manly, human nature of Jesus that was troubled, not the eternal, immutable Godly divine nature. There is no sin or unbelief in the sort of emotion we see displayed by Jesus. If we are like him, we may very well be upset by death – taking no pleasure in it. This is conjecture, but I think perhaps Jesus was also troubled by the thought of his own upcoming death. He knew that it would be physically and psychologically difficult to endure, though his faith in the father would never wane.
I know there are people in this church right here that have lost loved ones and family in just the past week! If what we read in John today is any indication (and I believe it is), if Jesus were here in the room today, he wouldn’t tell the grieving people to get tough, nor would he wave them off saying, “Hey, don’t worry, it will all be cool later.” He would cry right along with them. We can do that too. He’s already arranged to take care of it all in the end.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
(1 Corinthians 15:26)
So, what does this actually mean to us today? Well, I think we can relate this to what Hebrews 4 tells us about Jesus.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
When we face all sorts of trials and troubles and sadness here on earth, Jesus knows how terrible they really make us feel. He is not a big entity in the sky that rolls his eyes at our smallness and instability. He became very small just like us, because he loved us so much. Jesus doesn’t just steamroll death as if it were something insignificant. He weeps. And then he stands up and commands.
We’ve spent quite a few months here working through the gospel of John and today’s passage in John 11 has a lot of interesting things going on. We’ll only have time to touch upon a few of them though. First, a bit of background leading up to today.
Unlike the other three gospel accounts, (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the gospel of John is not strictly chronological. He, the author, John, had an agenda. He had several key points about Jesus that he wanted to emphasize and drive home to his readers. We believe that this wasn’t just part of a personal style or individual way of thinking, but something inspired by the Holy Spirit, God himself, when John wrote this all down in the mid first century.
Near the end of the book, John makes this aside:
“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
So he is telling us that there are many volumes worth of things he COULD have told us about Jesus. John was, after all, with him during his entire earthly ministry and even took care of Mary after Jesus was gone. He could have written much more than 20 short chapters, but he didn’t, and he told us he didn’t because his curated collection is enough to help us understand who Jesus really was – the Son of God. He also makes reference to “signs”, and that is how most people studying this gospel throughout the centuries have organized their reading.
Let’s take a quick look at these signs:
1. Turning water into wine, John 2:1-12
2. Healing the royal official’s son, John 4:46-54
3. Healing the paralytic at the Bethesda pool, John 5:1-17
4. Feeding the five thousand, John 6:1-14
5. Walking on water, John 6:15-25
6. Healing the man born blind, John 9:1-41
And finally, the last and greatest one (in some regards):
7. Raising Lazarus from the dead, John 11:1-46
Now, even though Jesus did many miracles, he often tried to keep a low profile. He didn’t advertise what he was doing and he would often disappear when the village started to get excited. As far as we can tell, he wanted to stay under the radar of the religious leaders (who didn’t like unorthodox competition) and the Romans, who were a bit jumpy about revolutionary leaders destabilizing the country. Jesus knew that he would have to die, but he must have had in mind a number of things he wanted to accomplish before the time was ripe.
With the resurrection of Lazarus, which we’ll read in a minute, he didn’t try to hide anything. In fact, Jesus even narrates out loud some of what is going on to make sure all the people around him understand his intentions. The time for the Passion, for his death and resurrection, is coming up soon and so he begins to pull out all the stops.
Now let’s take a look at the scripture. I love these long narrative passages. They stand up pretty well on their own and don’t need to be wrapped up in much of a sermon!
The passage: John 11:1-46 (ESV)
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Below, Lewis articulates a contemporary rendition of Augustine’s “God-shaped hole”:
Most people, if they have really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy. I am not now speaking of what would be ordinarily called unsuccessful marriages, or holidays, or learned careers. I am speaking of the best possible ones. There was something we have grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which just fades away in the reality. I think everyone knows what I mean. The wife may be a good wife, and the hotels and scenery may have been excellent, and chemistry may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Ch.3
I’m tracking with him here for sure, but I’ve met quite a few Christian (with whom this also resonates) that are mystified at how few people around them seem to find this sort of thing compelling. Michael Spencer discussed the same thing about six years ago in light of a London Times study on religion and youth. The relevant summary goes like this:
“Nevertheless, young people do not feel disenchanted, lost or alienated in a meaningless world. “Instead, the data indicated that they found meaning and significance in the reality of everyday life, which the popular arts helped them to understand and imbibe.” Their creed could be defined as: “This world, and all life in it, is meaningful as it is”, translated as: “There is no need to posit ultimate significance elsewhere beyond the immediate experience of everyday life.” The goal in life of young people was happiness achieved primarily through the family…The researchers were also shocked to discover little sense of sin or fear of death. Nor did they find any Freudian guilt as a result of private sensual desires. The young people were, however, afraid of growing old.”
Capon though, (to string some metaphors together), gets closer to the bone, closer to the bare metal, closer to the raw psychology behind this and in the process borrows a page out of Girard’s book (whether he knows it or not).
The untamability of romance, the endlessness of the vision of the beloved, threaten constantly to send us off in successive limitless expeditions after something that grows successively harder to define. The movie star on her fifth marriage seems always to be less clear about what she wants and less free to make her wanting serve her well. For under it all lies the endlessly expansive pride of a being who cannot add a cubit to her stature or a minute to her life. That is our dilemma: desire is endless; we are not.
-Robert Capon, Bed and Board, p.56
Romance is never ultimately satisfying, not necessarily because we have this longing for God that is mistakenly misdirected at the nearest lover (thought that can be an accurate way to describe it at times), but because our desire is alive and regenerated and unlimited. Ambition for power and success can never be satisfied because our capacity to envy will always exceed the magnitude of our own frame.
A man who drinks gets thirsty again, but Christ explicitly(!) describes what He gives as a “spring of living water welling inside” (John 7). Oughourlian argues convincingly in his Genesis of Desire that this thirst is most certainly from God, not the product of our corruption or of the devil. Adam was thirsty in Eden, and then he was satisfied by drinking water. So are we. But we cannot add one cubit to our stature. We steadily covet more than our humble (but beautiful) selves can ever contain. To be satisfied in God and to find rest in him implies, chiefly, that we no longer need what our neighbor has, or what only our creator has. In due time He wills to give us all in an ongoing and eternal fashion.