Friday, November 2, 2012

What Do You Really Want To Do?

Sean: So what do you really want to do? 
Will: I wanna be a shepherd. 
Sean: Really. 
Will: I wanna move up to Nashua, get a nice little spread, get some sheep and tend to them. 
Sean: Maybe you should go do that.

I've seen Good Will Hunting a number of times before and I've always enjoyed it, but it's only during a recent viewing of the film that one of the key themes (perhaps the key theme) struck a chord with me in a way that it never has before. Perhaps, my response was due to my current stage of life, or the courses and readings I've been pouring over in classes; whatever the cause, I don't think I can now understand some things the same way again. Or to put it differently, life and discipleship just got a lot weightier. Let me explain.

During one of the many scenes between Will (Matt Damon playing a young genius throwing away his life) and Sean (Robin, I'm bearded so take me serious, Williams playing a shrink), Sean asks Will a simple question, "What do you really want to do?" I included the quote below the opening picture and in it you can see that Will reacts jokingly. Sean doesn't relent in the scene though, continuing to push the question, "What do you really want to do?" After more of Will's misdirection, Sean calls him out saying that deep down he doesn't really know. It's a great scene of drama, between two well-performed characters in a fantastic film. It wasn't until a recent viewing that the simple question Sean poses to Will popped out of the film and confronted me.

The odd thing about the experience is that it wasn't the content of the question that confronted me; it was the weight of the question. The question had an immediacy and an importance to it that cut down to the core of Will's character, to his soul. This isn't a question of biological needs or simple preferences; it's a question that asks for the hearer to reveal something true about their soul, what it is truly wants out of life. "What do you really want to do?" Will's misdirection and obfuscation wasn't witty, it was childish. In order to grow and mature, he must confront this question and the reasons why he is refusing to answer. While I've felt like I've engaged with this question in my own life, I don't know if I've ever given it the proper weight and priority that it deserves. Have you? Have we confronted the reasons we run and hide from this question?

I would love to delve deeper into the film and analyze how Sean and to a lesser extent Gerald Lambeau represent characters who have confronted these questions in opposing ways, but I will relent with the film critique here. I'm more interested in how this question reverberates truthfully in the world and ultimately with the issue of Christian discipleship and maturity. Many of you might be thinking, "How trite, how cliche! Kyle has given himself over to sentimentalism or worst, secular humanism!" If I was approaching the question from a secular worldview, I might agree with you. I don't believe that we should just, "Do what we want." However, the more I become familiar with the Scriptures of our Lord and King, the guiding of the Holy Spirit, and the examples of the great Christians who have gone before us, I am convinced that God cares deeply that we give great importance to the question, "What do you really want?" I believe that God created us as creatures who would find their true fulfillment in Him. Our wants and desires were made to be fulfilled in Him. Thus, rightly ordered, for one to really understand what they want, is to ultimately find themselves in God. However, as the ever theologically astute Phil Collins put it, "Something happened on the way to heaven."

Outside of a Christ, I think that giving ultimate priority (I will use the term submission for here on out) to our wants is to give ourselves over to chaos. I firmly believe that we are creatures that have greatly gotten off-track, that have perverted so much of our nature as God created us. How else can one understand that some people find their own personal answer to the question of want in the accumulation great wealth stepping on anyone who gets in the way? Or finds their wants leading them to violence, war, murder, or rape (even the rape of children)? This is deeper than just ignorance, for some of our most educated are some of the biggest culprits  Even the briefest of histories reveals that simply submitting oneself to our desires and wants ends in a world of personal indulgence and selfishness.

It is in Christ that we are able to rightly prioritize our desires and wants. For when we submit to Christ, are filled with the Holy Spirit, and begin to follow his Word we find restraint, guidance, and purification of our desires and wants. G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy perfectly illustrates what I am thinking about, 
"Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased."
Christianity doesn't squash and quench our wants, our freedom; it is precisely through Christ that we are provided the safety to truly be free to seek them out. Within Christ, the question, "What do you really want?" can finally take on it's intended purpose that was lost to us when we all went so awry. Because Christ guides and purifies our wants (which He put in us), our wants will ultimately lead to and find their satisfaction in Him. 

Whether the question takes on the form of "What's your Holy Discontent?"  made famous by Bill Hybels, the more mystical urging of a Parker Palmer to "Let your life speak", or the more hermeneutically framed  imploring of Kevin Vanhoozer to "...display whatever understanding we have gained; we must advance (act), script in hand, and move into the world in front of the text - to the Glory of God", it is clear that Christians must take seriously the question, "What do you really want?"

For me, I am increasingly convinced that any discipleship process that does not seriously attempt to develop the implications of this question has misunderstood what it means to live as a Christian "In Christ". Most discipleship processes am I familiar with have focused rightly on our identity in Christ and on the basic doctrines of Christ. Yet, in my little experience, I've not had much experience with processes that help us to reflect on and understand the weight and importance of knowing our wants in Christ. The church's ignorance of this issue isn't right, it's childish. In order to grow and mature, we must confront this question and the reasons why we are refusing to answer it.

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