When a warm easterly breeze glides through my hometown of Cambridge, a regular surprise welcomes me around midday. As I walk out the front door, heading to my car (usually to make my pilgrimage to Subway), I am caught unaware by this alluring sensory delight.
Twelve herbs and spices. A secret recipe. Deep-fried, crispy-skinned chicken.
I live within spitting distance (if you're a world-class spitter) from Cambridge's one and only KFC. It stands proud, proclaiming the Colonel to all who venture through - and also creating an enticing scent that gently makes its way from the greasy deep-frier, all the way down to my nostrils.
Now, I don't particularly like KFC - it's definitely not my favourite lunch-time option. But when I catch a sniff of this Southern classic, it grabs me. It attracts me. Somewhere, deep in my gut, I feel myself drawn to eat at the hand of Mr. Sanders. Usually, I am strong enough to resist the pull – but on occasion I find myself biting into a drumstick, when my original plan had been for a six-inch sub.
Dealing with Desire
There's something almost magical that happens here – when desire grabs me before I have a chance to think. In some sense, this desire is beyond me – I can't muster up the emotions that come with a whiff of KFC. As I sit at my computer now, deep-fried chicken does not really appeal, and I have no dreams of slurping on some potato and gravy. But I am aware that if I put myself outside of those illustrious red and white walls, I can find myself captured by a fatty future before I get a chance to think.
Now, this desire isn't always a bad thing and sometimes this magic is a powerful force of positive attraction. You only have to think of one of the primary drivers in human history – the force of romantic love – to get a glimpse of how this can work.
When we try and muster up love, creating a situation where we might 'fall in love' with someone – more often than not we'll end up disappointed. The magic of that emotion always seems elusive, just out of reach – and out of our control. But then – when we least expect it – we catch a glimpse of someone; a sniff of their perfume. They brush our arm, they smile, they give us a large-print Bible (just to keep this Christian). Suddenly, our hearts are captured, our imaginations smitten and our dreams transformed. This desire – much stronger than KFC – has been the force behind centuries of poetry, art, drama and design – and is a good part of what it means to be human.
Rainbows & Lollipops
Although romantic love is much more than infatuation and emotion – it still definitely includes this part of the journey. Yet, when we reflect on what life means for those who follow Jesus – it does not often include the language of desire and joy. We become people who go before the glance; who serve before the sniff. In the words of an English pastor, we are a people who are so focused on doing works for the Kingdom, but don't know how to spend time with the King.
Just as a marriage is not all fireworks and electricity, so following Jesus is not all roses and lollipops. We serve a saviour who was crucified, and follow in the footsteps of twelve church planters who knew torture, pain and hardship more than we can imagine. But – if a marriage did not have any emotion or romance – we'd probably assume there was a problem. Is this true of the Christian faith as well?
As a follower of Jesus, I have often launched into work and service with gusto, without pausing to think about what is really going on around me. This approach is totally opposed to the way of Jesus, who spoke these comforting yet challenging words, 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does'.
Jesus would put himself in a position where he might catch a glimpse of what God was doing around him. He wanted to get a sniff of God's activity, so then he could join in and participate in the electric work of God's Kingdom coming here on earth. Yet so often, we plough into the work without stopping to allow ourselves to be captured by this desire of God's, which transforms all we do.
Man Chop Wood
A few weeks ago, my Dad came with a trailer load of old planks and boards that he wanted to chop up and give to a neighbour for firewood. Working a drop-saw isn't always my idea of a good time, but I was happy to join in – and had a great time. Why? It wasn't just the altruistic nature of the task – it was the fact I was getting to serve with my Dad. Service is transformed by relationship.
As a former Youth Pastor, I know there were times I was pretty jaded with ministry. When I reflect on these low points, I realise that I was so focused on the work of the Kingdom, without being captivated by the desire of the King. I needed to pause, and get a fresh glimpse of what was possible, and hear a fresh word of hope – before continuing in relationship. Instead, I would often try and plough on, enduring frustration.
Desiring the Kingdom
In James Smith's incredible work Desiring the Kingdom, Smith argues that humans are primarily lovers. In his fantastic analysis the sacraments, liturgies and rhythms serve to capture our kardia (our gut) and awaken a deep-rooted desire for God and His Kingdom. We need sniffs of grace and glimpses of glory.
Yet, as he provocatively states, 'While Victoria Secret is fanning a flame in our kardia (gut/heart) the Church is trucking water to our minds'.
In Jesus' parables, we often see this desire awakened among the anonymous protagonists. A worker discovers hidden treasure and hears the echo of a new future of blessing – so goes and sells everything. A trader unearths the greatest pearl ever known and sniffs possibility of change – so gives all to buy this. A builder notices a solid rock-bed and glimpses a home built on solid foundations – so endeavours to make this a reality.
We too are invited to sniff the future feast of New Heavens and Earth, to hear the echoes of eternity's song and to feel the direction of the Spirit. Yet this is not just a future calling – we are also called to glimpse and imagine the reality of God's Kingdom here-and-now, and then join in and participate.
Whether that's preaching to masses, caring for the outcast and excluded, challenging the structures of sin or simply loving your neighbour – may it be inspired by desire and pursued with dogged determination, in cadence with the King.
Jeremy is a student and Innovation Consultant (www.creativate.co.nz) who has never given a girl a large-print Bible.
Jeremy Suisted previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-suisted.html