In the sermon yesterday, this story was shared, and it really captured my attention. I don't know if it's a true story, but it's told that when Socrates, the great philosopher, lived, a young man came to him one day and said, "I want wisdom." Socrates said, "Alright, if you want wisdom, come with me." The young man followed him to a river. The old philosopher walked into the water and told the man to join him. The young man followed, wondering what in the world Socrates was doing. The philosopher asked, "Now, what is it you want again?" "I want wisdom," he replied. "Alright," said Socrates, and he pushed the man's head under the water and held him there for a moment. The young man came up dripping and confused. "Tell me again, what is it you want?" "I want wisdom!" said the man. "Alright." And he pushed his head under again. This time Socrates held him under a little longer. The young man came up spluttering. Again, he asked, "What is it you want?" "I want wisdom!" And again he pushed him under, this time holding him for quite awhile, till the young man began to fight and struggle to come up for air. When he let him up, gasping, again Socrates questioned, "What is it you want?" Now doubting the wisdom and the sanity of the old philosopher, the man said, "I what wisdom!" Once more Socrates pushed him under the water and held him for a very long time. The young man writhed and twisted desperately, until finally he was released. As he choked and gasped, Socrates asked once more, "What do you want?" "I want air!" he gasped. Satisfied at last, Socrates said, "When you want wisdom as much as you wanted air, you will find it."
The story was told in the context of asking ourselves, "How much do I want God? How much do I really want to be close to Him?" In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, "you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." I have heard and quoted this verse many times. But again I find myself asking: what does it mean to seek Him with all my heart? I really admire people who seem to approach life with an exuberant passion for all they do. They seem to have a natural ability to put their whole heart into what they are doing and enjoy it fully. I am not one of those people. I tend to imagine acheiving lofty things without the intention of fully pursuing those dreams. I used to spend a lot of time dreaming unrealistic dreams....desiring gifts and abilities that I wasn't given, or just plain wanting to be someone else. Even in my real-life pursuits, I find myself living half-heartedly. But nothing grieves me so much as the realization that most of the time, I'm pursuing God half-heartedly. The story of the young man who wanted wisdom convicted me. And it also reminded me of something.
When I was little, I was diagnosed with asthma and allergies. I was taking medication early on and learned to use an emergency inhaler. If I had too much physical exertion or even got into a fit of laughter, my lungs would constrict and I would have difficulty breathing. Almost every time I had a cold, it would turn into an asthma attack. But the worst time was when we would visit my grandparents in West Virginia. There was something in the air, either inside or out, that got to me every time. Within hours of our arrival, I usually started sneezing and developed a runny nose. Within the next day or two it would turn into a full-blown asthma attack. There was hardly a visit to West Virginia during my childhood that didn't end up with at least a day and night spent in the easy chair in the livingroom, struggling to breathe and passing the miserable hours until I could use my inhaler again and get a brief respite. My mom would sit up with me some of the time and rub my back and try to encourage me to relax, to sit up straighter and take deeper breaths. I would be hunched over trying to breathe in shallow gasps. But there was really nothing else anyone could do for me, and I remember passing many night hours alone, watching the clock, because I knew when I could have my inhaler again, and I would just try to survive till the next relief. Thankfully my condition was not as serious as some. I only went to the emergency room once in my life to get more serious intervention. But in my memory as a child, those attacks were torture, and I sometimes wondered if I would make it through the night. There was nothing to do but keep breathing, as painful as that was. Even so, my Father was always there, and He used those dark nights in a special way. I remember when I was about 11 or 12, spending much of the time singing in my head all of the comforting songs I could think of. And sometimes I would read the Bible. I'm sure I talked to God a lot, because there wasn't much else I could focus on besides breathing and the knowledge that He was there, holding me all through the night.
God has been so merciful to strengthen my body and lungs as I grew into my teens and heal me of the asthma! It's been so long that I almost forget I dealt with it. But as I listened to that sermon, God took me back, and it was almost like I was there again, ten years old, sitting in that old stuffed rocking chair in the darkness, wrapped in a blanket, concentrating all my energy into that next breath. I could almost feel the terrible constriction in my lungs, the heaving of my aching chest, and the desperate pulling of oxygen through an airway that was nearly closed. And I realized I knew how that young man felt. What a picture! I've been there! I know how much you want air when you can't get enough. And I know that is how much I have to want God, if I would be wholly committed and fully satisfied in Him. I wish it were as easy as the memory. But it's not. It's a daily choice. It's putting aside other things that are important to me to give God the highest place in my heart and the best of my time. It's investing more of my treasure in Him instead of using it for myself. It's purposefully, persistently falling on my face before God day after day, pleading for the outpouring of His glory in my life, until He becomes the greatest passion of my soul. And I'm not there yet. But it's where I want to go. I thank Him for the grace to even desire to go there. I pray for desperation, to want Him that badly. And I hope, because I know He wants to take me there even more than I want to go.
What about you? What is it you want?