Philippians 1:23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far
There is desire and then there is desire. We sometimes distinguish between the two by using the phrase burning desire when we want to convey the intensity of how we feel. Interestingly, in the language of the New Testament the word used here is derived from the one for burning. It is also sometimes used for lust. The bottom line is that Paul was not talking about a whim of his. He was conveying passion. Philippians is thought to be written from prison and maybe that was one reason he wanted so much to be freed from his present situation and be with Christ. But the story of Paul’s life was one of having been changed by his encounter with Jesus which created in him a desire to live with and for him and this passion would define his whole life. Ruth Haley Barton, in a passage that has challenged me for several years now, believes that this desire for God is true of all humans; “Your desire for more of God than you have right now, your longing for love, your need for deeper levels of spiritual transformation than you have experienced so far is the truest thing about you. You might think that your woundedness or your sinfulness is the truest thing about you or that your giftedness or your personality type or your job title or your identity as husband or wife, mother or father, somehow defines you. But in reality, it is your desire for God and your capacity to reach for more of God than you have right now that is the deepest essence of who you are.”* Is this fulfillment of our truest self in God what awaits us on the other side of death? Is that why Paul says it is “far better”? This week, think about your burning desires and how they might really be an expression of your deepest desire for God.
*Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation