Personal reflections · Religion and Spirituality

The Twice-Removed Desire

This post was originally published June 22, 2012. For an update on how I feel about Christianity now, see the post “When God Spoke to Me.” This is part of the archive restoration project

Several years ago, I wanted to want to care about following God. I didn’t care about following God, and I didn’t even want to care. This knowledge, though, kept me praying. There was no emotion connected to my prayers, I knew they were half-hearted, but I was honest about my insincerity with God. I prayed for the want to want him, and trusted that want would come.

This fact came back to me today because my counselor praised my strong will. I was sharing with her an experience I’d had in resisting temptation, and described the difficulty I had in forcing the devil to flee. My strategy was, in every moment of temptation, to turn to God in prayer, asking him to give me his strength to resist it. I did not ask for the strength or to be strengthened. I needed his strength, and this alone helped me to resist. My counselor said to me, “while you do not deserve credit for the strength, you deserve credit for surrendering your will to God so he had the opportunity to win the battle raging in you.”

I wish I could take the credit, but as I was talking to God later for humility despite her compliments, he reminded me about the twice-removed stage. I didn’t want to rely on God, I didn’t even want to want it, but I knew I should, so I prayed for that want to change. This prayer was answered, and now I’m in a place where I sincerely and wholeheartedly care so much about following God. Now there is little question when I follow a command from the Infinite One, because he has been faithful in developing a willing heart in me.

When someone has a twice-removed desire, the desire cannot be changed without the help of God. This is because there is no willpower behind a change without an emotional connection to it. I’ve worked with several people struggling with temptations and sins, and they cannot resist because their hearts aren’t in it. I can’t change their hearts or force them to stop sinning. They can’t change their own hearts, and God doesn’t change a person’s heart without getting jurisdiction from said person because of his love. It is easy to close out the conviction to ask for a want to want God. It’s easier to ask to want when the want to want is granted. When want is finally able to be asked for with sincerity, it is given, and the heart has matured enough to be whole in its love for God.

Only when this is worked through can a will be truly surrendered to God. I’m sure for some this stage is very quick and almost unnoticed, and do not intend to claim this stage of growth happens the same for everyone. All I seek to do is share the lesson: if I don’t want to know God, or even want to want to know him, prayer is not hindered. I don’t have to be willing to fully embrace him yet, I only have to be willing to ask. It’s like the awkward stage of friendship before getting to know someone well, with uncertainty, but planning get-togethers. The stage passes, but it must take place.