“Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance (1 Peter 1:14, NRSV).”
Well, that is how this verse is supposed to read, but…yesterday what I saw, four times, was, “Like obedient children, do not be comforted by the desires that you formerly had in ignorance”.
I have to tell ya’, I like my misreading. It really spoke to me.
October is my birthday month. So, it is about this time of the year that I start to think of goodies wrapped up in sparkling packages, exploding with ribbons. I strategically insert my material desires into casual conversation, so that my husband knows exactly what to get.
I don’t like surprise gifts. I tell people exactly what I want, and I really mean it. This has been a misunderstanding between my husband and me. I used to tell him exactly what I wanted, and he would try to be creative with it. He ended up spending way more money and energy than was necessary. He knows now that I just know what I want. It is worth making me happy, the simple way.
Every year, my dad gives me some shopping money. He calls it one size fits all, which amuses us to no end. So, every year, about this time I start to dream about what I can get with my birthday shopping money. It gives me a little rush to think of all of that…well, retail therapy.
Yes, I love to shop, if I have the money to do it. At my age, there is not joy in buyer’s remorse or credit cards. So, my birthday brings a little, or potentially a lot, of comfort that can only be found at this time of year.
Unfortunately, I have searched for comfort in this world. I have shopped for comfort, eaten for comfort, escaped for comfort, and exercised for comfort. I have looked to house cleaning, phone calls to friends, TV watching, or working on the computer for comfort, as these tend to be less obvious means. You know what? I can't fix any discomfort like this.
I want to fix things that go wrong. I want to fix them for my husband, my family and my friends. Naturally, when I experience the bad day, or disappointing moments, I want to fix them.
I look out and grab the first thing that I can see, whether it is food or my wallet, and offer a solution. Each year that ticks by, each October that I face, I have to remember that this didn’t fix anything last year. The things that we label as comforting were birthed from false hope. They rely on ignorance for their full effect. What is the most ignorant statement that I can make? THIS is going to make the difference.
To return to the broken for comfort, is a step away from relief. The solution lies at the source of discomfort. Walking into the discomfort usually leads me to the throne of the King.
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7, NRSV).”
There is danger in looking for comfort in our leftover, dysfunctional desires; but there is a greater danger in the actual verse. Some people take one more step away, and one more, until they are far from the safest place. This is the true danger of the passage, conforming to the desires that are embedded in ignorance.
This is the subtle change that occurs when one revisits established ignorance to give it another chance. In fact, sometimes we can camp there for a while. It has an effect. It requires more of us, than we do of it. We are changed, conformed.
I do feel that I am a child being told not to touch my presents, but to think, instead. If I have expectations from a birthday, I should just go outside and wish on a rock, instead. It will be just as effective. If I want to experience true joy and celebration, I will take one step back to the throne, and hold my party with someone who cares.
What is that one thing that you are tempted to turn to for comfort, before you turn to Christ?
Father, thank you for caring for us, unlike anyone else. Free us from the ways that we try to comfort ourselves. Let us step toward your throne, reflexively. Take our anxiety and point us to true relief.