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Cherish Desire

Dear reader,

I hope you will participate in what you are reading about in this article. One way you can do this is to read and respond to the following questions or suggestions. You may want to do this before, during, or after reading the article.

What are the things you desire? Begin a list of whatever comes to you. Pause. Expand or adjust your list and then select the one thing that matters most to you right now. After you’ve decided what you want most, look behind or underneath that desire. What is the desire behind it? Keep asking “What is the desire behind this desire?” until you have discovered what it is that you desire most of all.

Ponder how desire leads you to, and keeps you connected with, God’s Love (not just words about God’s Love).

How might you find out if your desire for God’s Love has its fair share of your time, attention and energy? You could review your best experience with desire for God’s Love. Gently (and without judgments or comparisons) notice how you have been and are engaged in the desire dynamic (i.e., desire satisfied and then intensified). What have you done that has prepared you to receive the gift of satisfied and intensified desire? What might you do in order to be more actively engaged in the desire dynamic?


As Christmas approached each year when I was a little girl, I was pretty good at letting my mother know what I wanted. One day I wanted one thing, another day I wanted something else. I kept mother informed of course. She listened to and encouraged my list of desires, but she did even more than that. As the list began to get quite long, she told me to decide what I wanted most of all and to let her know.

For a whole chapter of his book, The Meaning of Prayer, Fosdick draws the reader into prayer as “dominant desire.”[1] Perhaps those Christmastime exercises in desire helped prepare me to really like and to ever after remember Fosdick’s chapter. It is a good thing to freely tell God any and every desire. This good thing transforms into a richer, fuller dynamic of love when we focus on what we really want most of all. Focus intensifies our desires; it softens and strengthens our hearts.

I wonder how many of us really like desire itself? It was a lot of years after those childhood Christmases before I discovered that desire isn’t just something to endure until it is satisfied by receiving or experiencing the thing I want most of all. Desire is something to cherish.

Desire is also the colluding companion of some incredibly negative things. In fact desire drives all the addictions that plague us, from the most obviously destructive addictions to those we consider tame and harmless. What is there to cherish about desire?

At its best, desire drives and sustains and eternally intensifies the state of being in love. To some extent each of us realizes that life, “The Whole Thing,” is one big love story. Earth is not big enough nor time long enough for that story to finish being told—to finish being lived. It takes eternity for love to expand infinitely, as it does.

Here are two authors’ attempts to describe the size of love:

All the paternal love which has come down from generation to generation through the channel of human hearts, all the springs of tenderness which have opened in the souls of men, are but as a tiny rill in the boundless ocean when compared with the infinite, exhaustless love of God. Tongue cannot utter it; pen cannot portray it. You may meditate upon it every day of your life; you may search the Scriptures diligently in order to understand it; you may summon every power and capability that God has given you, in the endeavor to comprehend the love and compassion of the Heavenly Father; and yet there is an infinity beyond.[2]

We may think …that love is some combination of helpful action, tender feelings, committed relationship, and romance. These are indeed aspects of love, but they bear about as much resemblance to love itself as raindrops to weather or waves to the sea.[3]

It is a love affair [the way God comes to us, and our response to God]. I think you could probably take not the best love experience you’ve ever had, but the best one you could ever dream of having and multiply that astronomically, and you wouldn’t even be close.[4]

Desire is what draws us into this love. There are moments when we realize—we participate firsthand in—God’s love. These are moments when light and comfort and pure joy are boundless. We can rarely begin to describe such moments; we just know with hearts overflowing in gratitude that our desire for God’s love has been satisfied. We may imagine, at least briefly, that such powerful joy will stay “just like that” all day, all week, forever! But there is nothing we can do to make such moments last, any more than Peter, James and John could have made the light, the cloud, the presence, and the voice on the Mount of Transfiguration stay.

Just when we want to go on forever (or at least all day) in the glow of satisfied desire, what we get instead is intensified desire. We may at first feel disappointed by this, but we find out that intensified desire is an even greater gift than having the former satisfaction extended. Desire will not leave us where we are; it will draw us on into deeper, richer, fuller love. There is always more. Desire satisfied is then intensified; that is the nature—the dynamic—of desire.

Cherishing desire is not a matter of analyzing, diagnosing, or moralizing. It’s not a typical how-to topic. And yet, we can choose to cherish and enter more fully into the dynamic of desire. This article is a small introduction to doing that; it is something books have been written about.[5] Once we begin to notice and focus our desire, we may forever after be coached through the desire dynamic in a variety of ways, some of them quite unexpected. The Akita dog named Hachi (short for Hachiko) was born in Japan in 1923 and his story came to America in 2009 through the film Hachi. A puppy abandoned at the train station is discovered and rescued by a distinguished scholar and an invincible bond develops. Hachi accompanies the professor to the train station each morning and meets him there after his return trip each evening until the untimely death of the professor. For nine years after the professor’s death, Hachi returns to the train station each evening to wait for his beloved friend.

The coming and going of season after season, year after year, only steadied and strengthened Hachi’s unshakable desire to see his master coming again through the door of the train station. The desire of the Christian’s heart for face-to-face glory at the return of Christ can likewise be unshakably focused through extraordinary moments of communion with Christ now. The Psalmist said it over and over—wait on the Lord. The gospels remind us over and over: watch and keep watching. Waiting and watching are about desire. In addition to keeping our head and hands busy doing what we’ve been told to do while we wait, we can be so given to desire that nothing—not the offer of a new life in a different home, not the changing seasons, not the long long wait, not the slow and painful movements brought on by aging—can keep us from watching and waiting with intensifying desire.

Wanting to know and love God more and more and wanting to help others do the same drew Diane Forsyth to pursue degrees in theology, religion and spiritual life development, and into employment as a college religion teacher, pastor and hospital chaplain. The same desire has prompted Charistis Ministries (, which meets a need within and beyond the Seventh-day Adventist Church for depth in personal and corporate communion with God. The title of her most recent book is Opening into Worship.


[1] Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Meaning of Prayer, Chicago: Association, 1949.

[2] Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, Mountain View: Pacific Press, 1948.

[3] Gerald G. May, M.D., The Awakened Heart, HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

[4] Gerald G. May in a seminar presentation I attended

[5] For example John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000.

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