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A Disorder Named Gollum

There are a couple of random thoughts running through my mind. One has caught my attention: "Everything that is inconsistent with love will die." The other thought is something Dallas Willard and others who write on spiritual formation have said that sin is desire run amuck. Eve's original sin is a problem with desire: "…the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom…" Genesis 3:6.

Paul and James of the Bible have written similar statements like James 4:1-3 "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." (NIV)

All of us can identify with "desires that battle within you". We are often at war with ourselves struggling to make the right choice or not give in to self destructive behaviors. We have desire for more food, sex, money, or love. We feel unsatisfied and we continue to try and fill ourselves with something. According to Webster, desire means "to long or hope for….." What are you longing or hoping for? What are you hungering for? Are you able to satisfy that hunger? Is it enough for you or do you hunger for more?

I think these two random thoughts are related. Everything that comes of my desires that are not born of love will die. Some would say they must die and I would agree but saying they will die is more hopeful. Just because we believe something should die does not necessarily mean it will die. Our disordered longings and hungers whose appetites are never ending create an all consuming preoccupation with satisfying them so that it chokes the life out of everything else. If you are familiar with the Lord of the Rings you may remember Gollum, a grossly deformed and internally tortured creature who is a graphic example of the death that disordered desire brings. Every thought and action he has is directed toward possessing his "precious" ring. His all consuming desire for the ring produced nothing but murderous impulses and finally his death.

A picture of desire satisfied is seen in Psalm 131:2 "But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me." Mothers know how challenging it can be to wean an infant. Resting comfortably in their mothers embrace without protesting and demanding breastfeeding happens as the mother calms, soothes, and provides for the child's needs in different ways. The infant learns to accept and trust the mother's love quieting and stilling its demands for breast milk. The child can now move on and be satisfied by other nourishment.

This metaphor of satisfied desire happens in the context of a loving embrace. The mother's sensitive and attentive responsiveness to her baby is what makes the transition to solid food possible. This transition is a transition of desire. We think we need one thing but love points the way to what we really need. Love teaches us to reorder our desire to that which gives life and away from that which brings death.

Frodo, the ring bearer in the Lord of the Rings understood Gollum's battle with desire. He too struggled with the desire of the ring's power. He responded to Gollum with compassion where others turned away in revulsion. Gollum initially responded to Frodo's mercy and kindness but he was unable to make the transition and rejected love's embrace. His battle within was won by the compulsive desire to possess.

It has been said that Eve was seduced by Satan into believing that God was not truthful with her about dying if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She stopped trusting God and decided for herself what is good to desire. Her desires, her hungers and longings were no longer guided in the loving embrace of her Creator. She was on her own, furtively grasping for nourishment that would never fully satisfy.

Are your desires guided by love's embrace?

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