I would attempt to answer this, but the evidence of my life so far shows that I have absolutely no idea. And I suspect that none of us do.
I don’t feel unsure about what I need. My brain sends me half-hourly updates, all presaged with a red light flashing ‘urgent’ and ‘essential’. And dear help anyone or anything who stands in the way. Because by doing so, they are threatening me. And I won’t be controlled. I won’t be told what to do.
The fact that such needs are sometimes conflicting, detracts nothing from their intensity. ‘I want to go out. Not later on, not in an hour. I want – no, I need to go out, right now – for a big night on the town, with music and dancing and lots of people. ‘ Two minutes later. ‘I want to go home. It’s too crowded. It’s noisy. I’m knackered. Why did you drag me out?’
I’m like an overtired child, screaming he doesn’t want to go to bed and won’t be told what to do, but simultaneously staggering with drunken exhaustion. Like when I know I need some spiritual food and Glen suggests a bible study. My hackles rise and I feel resentful and annoyed. How dare he tell me what I need? Husband or not, that’s not his job. It’s mine. Oh I’ll pay lip-service to submission, but the sub-text is too often barely repressed rage.
I think I know what’s good for me. But what I think leads to life, is often what chokes and harms me instead. I’m aware of a niggling sense of unease, of discontent. Things in my world are not ok. I can’t be still. And I don’t know how to fix it. But I really, really need to. My entire wellbeing depends upon it. And these desires are expressed in different ways – some of which look better than others. But whether I’m overspending or seeking to help others as a way of boosting my ego, baby, it’s all about me. Or it would be if I had the foggiest idea of who I am or what I want. Small wonder that this shifting kaleidoscope of desire leaves me dizzy and frustrated.
I’ve hovered under the beds, called Auntie Ethel, defrosted the freezer and refilled the spice rack. Tesco is closed. There’s no-where else to run. So, in desperation, I finally open the Bible. After all, Jesus says he has come to give us life to the full, right? So let’s get going…
And I’m confused. For instance, by how Jesus speaks of the kingdom of God. It’s not what I expect – kingdom values are reversals of earthly wisdom. ‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death’. Alrighty. What I think will help is not just going to fail, it’s doing fatal damage. That’s a bit of a pickle, to put it mildly.
Or listen to this – Anyone who would save his life will lose it, but those who lose their lives for the sake of Christ and His kingdom will save them.
Uh-huh. So if my ultimate goal is self-discovery, then it will inevitably be frustrated. But wait – the world tells me that I can’t know happiness till I find myself. Many mental health issues stem from the search for identity. I need to know how to set boundaries, to individuate, to challenge this passive-aggressive, codependent, toxic personality disorder that has dogged me since discovering our beloved dog didn’t, as Mum and Dad explained, just ‘run away’. (He might have been sick, but they put him down! And I only found out a few months ago).
There’s a whole lifetime of issues to work through here. I don’t need more Bible riddles! I need an action plan. A twelve-step programme. Or at the least, a sermon with three application points, all beginning with ‘p’. Don’t I?
Maybe the key to John 10:10 is not in the words ‘life to the full’. Maybe it’s in the words “I have come” and in that verb “give.” Life is not what I make. It’s what He has made through His coming, living, dying and rising. He has established full life. In fact He is full life, and I have it now in Him.
At Christmas Jesus takes our place so that we can sit where He belongs. He is “at the Father’s side” (John 1:18) which is where we want to be. And He ends John’s gospel by telling us He came so that we might be where He is (John 14:3). This then is life to the full: in Jesus, filled with His Spirit and at the Father’s side. The life I could never secure by my own efforts is already mine.
What a gift.