Domesticated Desires

On Sunday morning, I woke up at the unusual hour of five a.m.  Despite some vain attempts to fall back asleep, I decided to get up and use the time for my benefit – instead of just laying listlessly in bed or vegging in front of the tv.  I eventually ended up sitting on our back porch in the cool of the summer morning reading (in particular David Hansen’s The Art of Pastoring) and thinking.  As I sat there, I enjoyed watching our cat stalk through the backyard looking for birds and squirrels.  He will never catch anything, but at least he is making the effort to live more in the fulness of his created nature (at least to a degree).

I think a little background is in order.  We have had our cat Wimesy (named after literary detective Lord Peter Wimsey created by Dorothy Sayers; not to be confused with “whimsey”) for about seven years now.  We picked Wimsey up from a lady referred to us by a friend outside of St. Louis in Troy, MO.  We were on the typical seminary path of students who came without children:  no children, pet, child near the end of seminary).  Since that time, Wimsey has been an inside cat.  That is, until the last year or so as he discovered that 1) there was an outside world  2) the children are more than happy to let him out or to hold the door open unaware.   Now we just don’t try to hard to keep him anymore, although he still spends a lot of time inside.

Then there was George.  I remember the night that George followed my in-laws home from a walk and adopted their family shortly after I had started dating Lydia (a few years ago now).  George was all cat and frequently left his prey on the doorstep.  Wimsey is somewhat wimpy compared to George.  So this is the context for my thoughts from the patio early Sunday morning.

I know I’m not breaking any new ground here, but as I watched our cat, I was struck by the notion of domestication and what it does to our natural desires and abilities.  If I were to walk up one morning and find a dead bird on the doorstep left by our cat, I probably wouldn’t be all that excited.  At the least, I wouldn’t enjoy disposing of said gift.  And yet, it is more what he was created for.  We may get glimpses of this as he plays with toy mice, but it is not the same.  Outside there are dangers: from other cats, animals (I have watched birds dive-bomb Wimsey), cars, getting lost, etc…).  Outside there is no guarantee.

to tame (an animal), esp. by generations of breeding, to live in close association with human beings as a pet or work animal and usually creating a dependency so that the animal loses its ability to live in the wild. []

How much has my relationship with God been domesticated?  What have we been created to be dependent upon that causes us to lose our ability to live in the wildness of that relationship?  What dangers would we rather not face, insisting instead on the warmth of our safe places?   We have been given permission, by and large, by society to worship and follow God as long as we do it in a domesticated manner.  As long as we don’t get too serious about our theology and its commands.  As long as we don’t invite others to meet the untamed God.  And so we find this to be an amicable agreement.  We get to worship and everyone else gets left alone.

This reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quotation that I first learned from John Piper (in Desiring God):

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.  Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the reward promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desire, not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased” (from the Weight of Glory)

Piper goes on to say, “The enemy of worship is not that our desire for pleasure is too strong but too weak!…We have accustomed ourselves to such a meager, short-lived pleasures that our capacity for joy has shriveled. And so our worship has shriveled.” I think these thoughts were a precursor to his more recent and most excellent book, Don’t Waste Your Life – which tackles this topic of the domestication of our desires and of our following God.

Just thinking…


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