Session 3: Study Guide

All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.
–St. Ignatius of Loyola

Do you have the desire for this desire?
–St. Ignatius of Loyola

“[Our] . . . job description from God is to function in a conscious, personal relationship of interactive responsibility with him. We are meant to exercise our “rule” only in union with God. Our divine purpose is confirmed by the deepest longings of our hearts to be creative of good.
–Dallas Willard
Trevor Hudson Part 8 of 14

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Table of contents

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Welcome

Welcome to session 3 of Another Kind of Life DVD Experience. Each of the six sessions in this study is designed for completion in 60 to 90 minutes, with additional activities that can be done at home.

This session accompanies chapter 3 of Another Kind of Life (pages xx-xx). Watch the video, discuss the questions, and complete the key activity as a group as time allows.

Note to Leader: You and your group will need to decide whether you would like to catch up with each other around the homework and Scripture reading experiences before you watch the video together for this week’s lesson.

Video Notes

As you watch the video, use the space below to take notes. We’ve included some key points to get you started.

  • Two simple observations about desire
    • Desires are a deep, vital, integral part of what it means to be a human being . . . and they give direction, energy and shape to our lives.
    • But, our desires can become distorted, dark, dangerous and destructive.
  • Peter’s admonition concerning desires of the flesh that war against the soul
  • Ignatius’ whole life story could be understood as a story of conversion of desire.
    • He states that the purpose of his Spiritual Exercises is to help us overcome our selves and to order our lives so that we do not reach decisions through “disordered affections.”
    • Yet he also has a very positive view of desire and encourages that attention be paid to our deepest desires.
    • He believed that our deepest desires are for God and the life that God gives.
  • Story of Jesus and Blind Bartimaeus
    • Jesus asks: “What do you want me to do for you?”
  • Jesus’ question about desire does three things for us:
    • Jesus was asking Bartimaeus, and is asking us, to step into our inner world and to notice our desires.
    • The question contains an invitation to discern our deepest desires.
    • The question helps us learn that God is truly interested in our deepest desires.
  • Wedding Illustration
  • Jesus’ question invites us to pause, to turn inward and listen to our hearts.
  • Listening to our deepest desires is difficult for at least two reasons
    • In our busy lives we may have lost the ability to stop, to push the pause button.
    • Sometimes our deepest desires are hidden, buried under more superficial desires…but it is important to drill down.
  • Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus can be seen as an invitation to share our deepest desires in conversation with the Lord—as a matter of deepening our friendship and intimacy with the Trinity
    • God’s concern is not inviting us into prayer as a way to provide information, but instead to share intimately about our deepest feelings and desires. We are giving God access to our lives.
  • As we learn to notice and to sift through our desires, we begin to discern our deepest ones and to bring them to God. They lead us deeper into the life that God gives us.
  • God has created us with very deep desires. He has placed eternity in our hearts.
  • Questions for Trevor’s Small Group:
    • “What does it mean to you that God is very interested in what you want and desire?”
    • “What does it mean that through the deepest desires of your heart, God may be leading you into the life He wants to give you?”

Discussion Questions

Silent Reflection

For each of the six sessions, we encourage you to listen to both Trevor’s talk and the interviews of the participants in Trevor’s small group. We want you to feel that you are in the room with Trevor, an extended part of the group you are watching. At the end of the DVD session, invite your group into a time of silence (at least a minute or two) to engage with the following reflections:

  1. Reflections from the Silence: “What does it mean to you that God is very interested in what you want and desire?”
  2. Reflections from the Silence: “What does it mean that through the deepest desires of your heart, God may be leading you into the life He wants to give you?”
  3. As you reflect on your journey within the Christian faith, what were the main messages given to you about desire?
  4. How have your desires been helpful/unhelpful in your life with the Trinity?
  5. What do you think Ignatius means by “distorted or disordered desires”?
  6. How would you describe the relationship between your desires and God’s will for your life?
  7. What makes it difficult for you to listen to your deepest desires?
  8. How would you contrast the idea of prayer as providing information to God vs. prayer as intimate sharing with God?
  9. If Jesus asked you the same question asked of Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” how would you respond?

Key Activities

Finding and Following Our Deepest Desires

As you heard Trevor say, our desires are a deep and integral part of what it means to be a human being. Our desires direct, shape and energize our lives. But we also heard that our desires might become distorted, dark, dangerous, and destructive.

As we think about the role of desire in the Christian life, let consider the words of C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered 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.1

Perhaps, Lewis was inspired by the words of G. K. Chesterton who wrote, “Every time a man knocks on a brothel door, he is really searching for God.”

Chesterton is expressing a very Ignatian idea. The desire for intimate knowing can become distorted, or it can be seen as a signpost pointing to intimate friendship with the Trinity.

In another work, C. S. Lewis continues with the theme of desire and what our deepest desires might suggest. In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes:

‘Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. . . . If I find in myself a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage.’2

Lewis and Chesterton echo the teaching Trevor is offering from some of the most important ideas of St. Ignatius and Dallas Willard.

What follows is a group activity designed to promote discussion around the relationship between natural desires, disordered desires (or attachments), and our deepest desires. We will use Maslow’s expanded hierarchy of needs3 as a way to organize the discussion.

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy

 

 

 

Please use the table below to organize group discussion. In the first column, labeled “Maslow’s Hierarchy” you will find eight basic areas of human need or desire. In the second column you will find an expansion of some of the ways these desires can be satisfied.

We provided you with an example of how a basic desire or need might become distorted (row 1, column 3). And in row 1, column 4, we also offer some ideas for how the basic desire may indicate an even deeper longing.

Take some time and consider each of these desires and discuss how the desire might become distorted, or a disordered affection, and discuss how the desire may point you to an even deeper longing that can only be fully satisfied in your relationship with the Trinity.

Maslow’s Hierarchy
Natural DesireIdolatry or Disordered Desire
Longing for Eden Our Deepest Desire
Physiological desiresAir, water, food and shelterA desire for food can turn into the vice of gluttony, and desire for shelter can become greed for a mini-mansion.Our desire for food or the nourishment of bios life can be seen as a symbol of our Zoë life’s need to be nourished by the Word and
Safety desiresProtection from the elements, to live with security and without fear
Social desiresRelationship, love and acceptance
Desire for esteem Achievement, dignity and respect
Cognitive desiresKnowledge and understanding
Aesthetic desiresAppreciation and enjoyment of beauty
Desire for
self-actualization
Growth and significance
Desire for transcendence To know, love and live in union with God

Homework: Recognize and Respond

Listening to and Praying with Our Desires

The following homework exercise is based on Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart. We will explore this model and use the components of the person—your components—to organize this exercise on listening to and praying with our desires.

In his book, Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard presents a detailed model of the person and how real change—Christian formation—can occur. His practical plan is built on the foundation of moving toward surrender to God and results in union with God and within the person.4

Dallas proposes that there are six basic aspects or components of a human life. These together and in interplay make up human nature:

  1. Thought (images, concepts, judgments, inferences)
  2. Feeling (sensations, emotion)
  3. Choice (will, heart, spirit, decision, character, your “CEO”)
  4. Body (action, interaction with the physical world)
  5. Social context (personal and structural relations to others)

Soul (the factor that integrates all of the above to form one life)

Willard's Model of the Person

[Willard’s Model Goes Here]

The first five components listed above correspond to the only five things human beings can do. We can think, feel, choose (will), behave, and interact with others. The sixth element—your soul—is the invisible computer that keeps everything running and integrated into one person.

Loving surrender is how we become united with Christ. Dallas Willard refers to this process of developing interior unity as “Christian spiritual formation,” or becoming an authentic child of light. The Eastern Church refers to this journey as Theosis, or the process by which full restoration of the “likeness of God” becomes a reality for those in spiritual union with Christ.

 

Becoming a Child of Light

Below you see what Willard believes is happening in each component of a “Child of Light”—that is, a person who is becoming more and more like Christ. After reviewing the list below, we will suggest two prayers for each aspect of you.

  • Thoughts: Children of light think constantly about God. They “dwell upon God and upon his greatness and loveliness,” as manifest in the life of Jesus Christ. They are “God-intoxicated.” (p. 218)
  • Feelings: Love is the dominant emotion of a child of light.
  • Will (spirit, heart): They are habitually “devoted to doing what is good and right. Their will is habitually attuned to it, just as their mind and emotions are habitually homing in on God.” (p. 219)
  • Body: “Their body has come over to the side of their will to do good. It is constantly poised to do what is right and good without thinking.” (p. 219)
  • Social relations: “In their relations to others they are completely transparent. Because they walk in goodness they have no use for darkness, and they achieve real contact or fellowship with others—especially other apprentices of Jesus. ‘If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7).” (p. 220)
  • Soul: “All of the above is not just at the surface. It is deep, and in a certain obvious sense, it is effortless. It ” (p. 220)

The outcome of spiritual formation that moves toward union with God is to have a soul that is whole and restored, aflame with the presence of Christ. Such a soul effectively unites with God and every aspect of the self begins to function as God intended. The essential ingredients are time, honesty, and deep trust that chases away fear and results in complete surrender. With this in mind, we invited you to step into the following prayer exercise.

Component of the PersonHonesty about DesirePrayer for Additional Desires
Thoughts“Lord, at present, these are my thoughts ________________.
Teach me what they are saying about my desires.”
“Lord, help me to desire to have you in my thoughts, always.”
Feelings“Lord, at present, these are my feelings: _________________. Teach me what they are saying about my desires.”“Lord, may I deeply desire my dominant emotion to be love.”
Will (Heart, Spirit)
“Lord, at present, this is the state of my will: ___________________. Teach me what this is saying about my desires.”“Lord let me desire a will that is confidently surrendered to your great will.”
Body“Lord, at present, this is what I am hearing from the desires of my body:__________________________.
Teach me what this is saying about my desires.”
“Lord, help me develop habits in my body that are poised to do the next right and good thing.”

Relationships“Lord, at present, these are my desires for the most important relationships in my life: ________________________. Teach me what this is saying about my desires.”“Lord, may I desire to be open and transparent in all my relationships and to no longer use words to manage the opinions others may have of me.”
Soul“Lord, at present, this is the state of my deepest self. I am ____________.
Teach me what my soul is saying about my desires.”
“Lord, may I desire to experience the secret of an easy yoke; may my being be in the flow with Your being.”

Additional Homework Suggestion

Living as Those Made Alive in Christ (Colossians 3:1–17)

For more than three decades Dallas Willard taught a 12-hour DMIN course each summer for Fuller Theological Seminary. As part of the ten days spent in a retreat center setting, he encouraged his students to memorize Colossians 3:1–17. Dallas believed that this passage was one of the best treatments of spiritual transformation presented in scripture.

We’ll not ask you to memorize this passage—although it is a wonderful idea. We are inviting you to read the passage each day for the following week. And as you read pay attention to the two types of desire being described and how the apostle is encouraging you mortify the desires of the flesh, while vivifying the desires of your spirit.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Scripture for Reflection

The following passages of Scripture were either referenced by Trevor in his talk or suggested by Dallas Willard to help us focus on some aspect of God’s offer of another kind of life. As your read each passage this week, notice if there is a word, or phrase, or sentence that connects deeply with you.

 

Living Godly Lives in a non-Christian Society (1 Peter 2:11)

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.

 

Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight (Mark 10:46–52)

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

 

Delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:1–4)

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 

Priority to the Will of God (Matthew 6:33)

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

 

Prayer for Heart’s Desire (Psalm 20:4)

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

 

Trust the Lord, Trust Your Heart, (Proverbs 3:5–8)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

 

Hope Deferred, Hope Fulfilled, (Proverbs 13:12)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

 

Waiting Patiently, (Psalm 40:1–8)

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,

who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.

None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened—
burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.

I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.

 

Guard Your Heart, (Proverbs 4:23)

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

 

Abiding, (John 15:7–8)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Footnotes
  1. C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 1949), 27.
  2. Mere Christianity, 136–137.
  3. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who may be seen as a forerunner of positive psychology. He is best known for developing what is commonly called “Maslow’s Hierarchy.” This “pyramid” or “ladder” of human needs became an important theory for psychological health and fulfillment.
  4. Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002), 38.
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