Advent 2: Desires

12/16/2018 § 2 Comments

In these days when fewer and fewer people in our country (and many others) adhere to a religion (I include here people who profess a religion but do not actually practice it), we see a lively “explain religion” industry — what is the function of this strange phenomenon?  Some look as deeply as our genes for the physical origins of the religious impulse;  others do not presume to have found or to seek the God Gene, but rather see religion as wish-fulfillment, as a reflection of our fear of death, as an evolved mechanism for social cohesion, as an unfortunate by-product of the human nervous system, or as the familiar old “god of the gaps” — the mysterious X to which is attributed all the stuff that Science has not yet explained.

No doubt there are many cases in which each of these proposed origin myths  “fits” to one degree or another.  I am not qualified to speak about origins.  All I can say is that they don’t describe my experience — and I assume that this is so for very many people across cultures and religions.  I didn’t go looking for it, nor did anyone ever say to me, when I was a child, “Do this to accomplish these ends” — not even “Do this if you want us to think you are a good boy.”  I was free to practice or not, and my family was no more than nominally religious

My experience derives from my experience of the Presence from early childhood.  It has never come at my instigation.   I can be more or less receptive or available to intimations and sensations of that Presence, and I have learned that it is never far away.  It flows “beneath” daily activities, and through them;  feels like something alive and nourishing, demanding and humble, communicative and (almost) incommunicable.

And my religious practice, at bottom, derives from desire,  the desire to stay in that presence, to learn its lessons for me, and to live them as I can — or to regain that sense of Presence, when it has been lost, when I have allowed myself to push that arresting guest or companion into the background.

So I have come to believe that the desire for this awesome, precious presence, is the most important resource for any seeker who is sometimes a finder.  Jesus said “blessed are the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst” for the Living Waters, and I think I know what that means, when I keep “low” enough to hear and feel the Word being spoken inwardly, and outwardly from every face, event, plant, animal, landscape, firmament.

The first Friends, those assertive, strenuous, prophetic, fearless children of the Light whose child I also wish to be, knew the power of the yearning and the longing for the Presence, and the joy when it was felt and known — not as fulfilling some function, but as bread and wine, life-blood, and music.

There is no greater resource for you, friend, that the desire for God, whose satisfaction is available to the least “likely.”  God seeks your hospitality, and the lamp that brings you together in the darkness is your longing for the encounter. Mind the hunger, mind the poverty of spirit, mind the child nature that asks with confidence of the Loving One!


To you people the mighty day of the Lord is coming, and in his power is appearing amongst you, in raising desires in some of you towards his name, which desires cannot be satisfied with any outward observations and traditions of your fathers, but above them does your minds rise, in true hunger and thirst towards the living God, for refreshment from his presence…

that is the living word of God within, that has raised desires in you towards God..wait in the light and power within that hath released the desires, and the Lord will then strengthen and give you power to wait on him in the way of his judgments.

To you tender babes and chilldren of the most high, this is the word of the Lord God in whom desires are raised towards his name: his counsel mind in you, and stand faithful in it, according to his word declared to you… in the light and life lift up your heads, and freely give up sould and body to the Lord…to guide you in perfect obedience to his righteous law, written in the heart.

(William Dewsbury, The Mighty Day of the Lord is coming, in which Christ knocks at the door of the heart..)


§ 2 Responses to Advent 2: Desires

  • Gerard Guiton says:

    I think the ‘mighty day’ is the kingdom within us that we can forget as we go about our daily round. When we recover this lost radiance it disturbs us. This disturbance is, of course, good. It rattles our cages and, if discerned well, can lead us onto new pastures. Let’s hope! Thank you for your article.

    Liked by 1 person

    • briandrayton says:

      Yes — I sometimes meditate on passages in early Friends works that talk about the experience of reigning with Christ – the sense of the present kingdom is so palpable, and yet fragile. I think that’s why I so value advices to hold on to the little motions, the “breathings” as a place to take refuge (hope) in — for starting forward again.


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