What we all want most

It is an axiom of ancient eastern spirituality that you can have whatever you want. The trick is to know what exactly you want.

Underneath it all, what do you really want? What is your core need, the very root need from which all your other needs grow?

What do you want that, if you get it, will leave you wanting nothing at all?

My vote is that above all what we all desire is to be loved. To be affirmed. To be validated, appreciated, accepted, understood as being—without having to do anything to prove that we are—awesome.

We are all absolutely bonkers to be loved. Really loved. Not loved because we’re good. Not loved because we’re worth it. Not loved because the other person is in a good mood. Not loved because of how sexy or smart or talented or accomplished or good to others we are.

Nah. That’s too easy. What we want is impossible. What we want is to be loved for the entirety of who we are—warts, as they say, and all.

We want the worst of who we are to be loved just as much (or better!) than the best of who we are. And we want that love to be absolute and permanent.

That’s the deal. That’s what we want. That’s what we’ve always wanted. That’s what we were born wanting, live wanting, and will die wanting.

The Very Big Problem, of course, is that an absolute and permanent love must come from an absolute and permanent source.

Gee, if only there was a God who had done everything humanely and divinely possible to prove to each and every one of us that we are, absolutely and forever, loved.

Wouldn’t that be great?

But that’s just not the way the world works, is it?


(Photo credit: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times)

Print Friendly

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • James Walker

    you mean, like this, John?

  • Diane U

  • Josh Magda

    Even “beyond” what God has done for us, the Divine Nature Itself is Love. Christianity expresses this Truth by means of the Trinity: God is a Community-within-a-Unity of Eternally self-emptying, receptive-responsive Lovers.

    On the active, incarnational “side” of this Love, the old Protestant hymn puts it nicely too:

    Oh, how I Love Jesus (3x)
    (emphasis) Because he first Loved me.

    Not just Jesus, but the Trinity, the Godhead, and Creation Loves us into Being on a moment by moment basis. It’s good just waking up in this kind of Universe.

    • Josh Magda

      Wow, I think I just used all of the words that I capitalize that aren’t normally capitalized in one short post.

      Love
      Universe
      Nature
      Eternal
      Truth
      Being
      Community
      Unity
      Creation
      World

      New readers of my comments, it doesn’t come from the personal conceit that my words are especially important, but from a respect and Love for God, His Nature, and Her Creation. I’m of the mind that we capitalize things that matter far less often than we should. If we can capitalize Denver Broncos, we can capitalize Universe, World, and Love. :)

  • http://limpingtowardsgrace.com/ James_Jarvis

    I think that sometimes we are scared to believe that God loves us absolutely and forever. Once you accept that God loves you and as the Old Testament says has shone his face upon you will be changed forever. To open your heart to God is too open your heart to having it broken by the things that break God’s heart. To open your heart to God is to stand with the poor and oppressed. When we open our hearts to love we open open our heart to suffering.

  • Herro

    >But that’s just not the way the world works, is it?

    I would say that the world clearly isn’t like that. If a god wanted to do “everything humanely and divinely possible to prove to each and every one of us that we are, absolutely and forever, loved” he could do a lot of things that he apparently doesn’t do. The classical example would be the “writing it in the stars” or just telling everyone that personally.

    • James Walker

      some of those would violate the notion of self-determination, though. and since the conception of God many of us here believe in counts self-determination among the highest goods (right up there with Love), He/She/It doesn’t do those things.

      John usually refers to this in his writing as “Free Will”.

      • Herro

        Well, I’m not sure how either of the examples I gave would violate anyone’s “free will”.

        But even if a god were only to use means that don’t violate anyone’s free will according to you, he surely could do more to “prove to each and every one of us that we are, absolutely and forever, loved.”

        In fact, it seems to me that he hasn’t done much at all to try to prove that. :l

        • James Walker

          You’re going to sit there and honestly tell me you don’t understand how God leaving a clearly written message in the stars stating “I exist and I Love each and every one of you” would take away our free will to believe or not believe?

          You’re going to tell me that you don’t understand how a personally delivered message from God to each of us “I’m here and I Love you” would remove from us our capacity to exercise free will?

          As to the last item in your comment, I invite you to take a look at the meme I posted to this thread. If sending His only begotten Son to live among us and to willingly give up His life for the message of Love isn’t enough for you to receive it, I’m not sure there is such thing as “enough” where you’re concerned.

          • Bones

            But James, doesn’t God choose to reveal Himself to certain people?

            If I had a Paul experience, I’d believe as well or an actual encounter with the risen Jesus or a burning bush.

            Actually I think anyone would.

          • James Walker

            Bones – no devil’s advocate roles for you today. =)

          • Bones

            Oh.:(

          • Herro

            Devil’s advocate or not, I would love to see how you respond to Bones’ point. Assuming that the risen Jesus appeared to Paul and the disciples in berson, were they deprived of their free will?

            If it was OK in their case, then why not for the rest of us?

          • James Walker

            They weren’t forced into a knowledge of God’s “realness”. They saw and experienced things that were certainly life changing, and they chose to believe not only that those encounters were objectively real but that they were evidence of Jesus’ role and status. I can’t honestly say that these were bona fide historical events. Their importance is that they were foundational to the Christian faith (belief).

          • Herro

            So if they still have the type of “free will” that you consider being important even after having Jesus himself appear to them, then why doesn’t your god have Jesus appear to everyone of us, if he truly wants to do everything he can to “prove to each and every one of us that we are, absolutely and forever, loved”?

          • James Walker

            You’re trying to demand that God be something you don’t even believe is possible. You’re trying to insist that the only kind of God you’d find credible is exactly the one you find completely incredible- the magic sky genie who grants wishes to all the good boys and girls. Well, keep on demanding that and see how far that gets you. Once again, I’m done trying to talk to you about matters of faith. It’s a waste of time and energy.

          • Herro

            >You’re trying to demand that God be something you don’t even believe is possible.

            Wrong. Assuming that some kind of a god exists, he could easily do all the things I proposed.

            >You’re trying to insist that the only kind of God you’d find credible is exactly the one you find completely incredible- the magic sky genie who grants wishes to all the good boys and girls.

            Wrong again. I didn’t suggest anything like the “magic sky genie who grants wishes”.

            And I’m simply pointing out that **if** a god exists who wants people to really believe some propositions (e.g. “god loves them”), then we would expect him to do a lot of things that don’t happen to get people to believe those propositions. I’m pointing out that the kind of god John Shore and you seem to propose clearly doesn’t exist.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            Turning towards The Whole invokes the Understanding of it.

            Who is it that turns?

            Who understands?

          • Herro

            1. I don’t know what you mean by “free will to believe or not believe”. I personally don’t experience my beliefs as something I choose. I couldn’t for example choose to believe that your god exists and I’m pretty sure you can’t just choose to disbelieve in your god. I don’t think that god appearing to me or writing in the stars would deprive me of “free will”, it would just mean that I would believe those facts, since they would be obvious.

            2. I don’t know why being deprived of this sort of “free will to believe or not” is important. When someone sees me on the bus they are “deprievd of the free will to believe or not to believe” in my existence. But why does that matter? Why shouldn’t god want to prove to us these facts? (and notice that John Shore used the words “prove to each and every one of us”, do you want your god to “prove” it without compelling one to believe it?)

            3. It’s not at all clear that your god has indeed sent “His only begotten Son to live among us and to willingly give up His life for the message of Love”. What has your god done to prove those supposed facts for us? And are you telling me that he couldn’t do more to prove that?

          • James Walker

            You’re confusing knowing with believing. I don’t believe diamond is harder than aluminum oxide. I know that it is. I”ve directly experienced it. As a result, I have no freedom to choose to believe the opposite unless I simply want to exercise perversity and be foolish.

          • Josh Magda

            This is an insightful example of the difference between knowledge and belief. And God is a reality than can be directly experienced. It would indeed be foolish to argue that God is not, after experiencing that God is. In fact, I would sooner believe that the whole of my experience as a human being has been a mass simulacrum, to include this conversation, than I would believe that God is not real. That’s not what I believe, but I would sooner believe it. Why? For the same reason we become certain of anything else: by seeing it repeatedly for ourselves.

            Give me every moment of my life experience under ordinary conditions, all the thoughts, all the fears, all the memories, all the words and images and relationships and fantasies and feelings…. and only exclude those moments of certainty when God comes near, and I will go with those moments as being the more truthful and enduring moments of my existence. Those moments are the center of my life experience, and everything else is the dreamlike periphery by comparison.

            God is not something that may or may not exist, any more than diamonds or horses or 7 Eleven may or may not exist. If something is real, it can be experienced.

          • Herro

            Sure James. Similarly I can’t choose to believe that a kitten is harder than a stone (I’m more familiar with these things rather than diamonds and aluminium oxide).

            But I can’t either just “choose” to believe or not even when I don’t have direct experiences. E.g. the existence of your god or his supposed eternal love. I can’t choose to believe these things. I have no “freedom” in this matter.

            And I don’t see why this kind of freedom should be important to your god. Why would it be better for you to “choose to believe” and not simply know that a kitten is softer than a stone? And why should it be better to “choose to believe” that your god loves you, and not just be told it directly?

          • Josh Magda

            I disagree here. Without direct experience of God/Spirit/The Sacred, the Universe can and does appear ambiguous to many people. There’s a lot more a hyper-personal God could do for us in an effort to convince us, if that is what He was after. Like, for example, sending His hyperlocal Son at least once every generation, to every geographic location, so that every human being might have some opportunity to be “directly convinced” by God in the flesh, thus passing His Majesty’s free will test, rather than listening to stories about something that may or may not have happened 2000 years ago.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Until we realize that every responsibly compassionate action involving any other physical manifestation of nature is a sacrament, we will continue to believe that we need religions and priests to bring us to some future promised land. We are creating the future with our present actions.

  • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

    “The Very Big Problem, of course, is that an absolute and permanent love must come from an absolute and permanent source.”

    In recognizing absolute and permanent love, what remains of us? Having cleared the path of ego, who is loved and who loves?

    Do we remain objects of love? Or, is love mutual and absolute? A single, unified field. The All.

    Without the taint of “ego blindness”, karma loses it’s grip. What sustains the great multiplicity of of relative self and it’s experience?

    • http://johnshore.com/ John Shore

      No one loses their ego in any sustained or permanent way, brmckay. (And just for the record or whatever, I studied and practiced Zen for over 20 years, and was deeply enamored of Hinduism and eastern spirituality for an additional ten or so years, so it’s not like I don’t know anything about this particular subject.) The idea that some people rid themselves of “the taint of ego blindness” is a lovely and certainly attractive idea, but it definitely has no more relationship to reality than do unicorns and fairies. No one gets to be unaware of themselves as individuals distinct and separate from everyone and everything else; no one gets to not crave being loved; no one–no one–doesn’t care what other people think of them. You can no longer rise above your “ego” than you can step outside of your own skin.

      • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

        If there is a body, there is an ego. “ego blindness” is another story.

        Why was the fig leaf suddenly of so much importance?

        How was Jesus different?

        “No one gets to be unaware of themselves as individuals distinct and separate from everyone and everything else; no one gets to not crave being loved; no one–no one–doesn’t care what other people think of them.”

        Can’t agree with that. All the testimony about Samaadhi and all.

        • Josh Magda

          “If there is a body, there is an ego”

          So the body is the ontological problem, not our indecision or inability to use it in a Sacred way? Even if I believed this, I wouldn’t disseminate this belief during a time when Creation’s body was under assault as it is now.

          The purpose of Western religion is not transcendence, it is immanence, or the downward mobility of God. The focus of the spiritual journey is not about getting out of the life condition, but the hallowing of the life condition that the One has “seen” fit to incarnate Itself here as. To what end? My humble belief, for the sake of Beloved Community, a Life Community comprised of Holy relationships capable of further perfection or completion, NOT the reverse engineering of “relationship” itself back to the One.

          We will all return to the One in due time (not that we’ve ever left it). There’s nothing that we have to do in order for that blessed event to occur. For now, its time we learned how to be the Many.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I had to look up “transcendence” and “immanence”.

            Wikipedia – “Immanence refers to philosophical and metaphysical theories of divine presence in which the divine is seen to be manifested in or encompassing the material world. It is often contrasted with theories of transcendence, in which the divine is seen to be outside the material world. Immanence is usually applied in monotheistic, pantheistic, pandeistic, or panentheistic faiths to suggest that the spiritual world permeates the mundane.”

            If this is what you are referring to, I would mostly come down on the side of “immanence” . The only thing that needs transcending is the ignorance of our actual non-separateness from God.

            God cannot be brought down to creation. As you say, “we have never left it.”

            I am also, all for the “hallowing of the life condition”, and “Beloved Community”. This is what results from the previously described transcendence of the illusion of separateness.

            No, the body is not the problem. It is the vessel by which God experiences the Many. But there is a process of enlightenment to serve. I have been using the word Love for this in these discussions.

          • Josh Magda

            The Kabbalah, while itself an inheritor of the Neoplatonic tradition (which can be called a Western Vedanta), synthesizes Biblical spirituality by nevertheless affirming that the Infinite is “enriched” by Her/His/Its time as Creation. Theologically and politically progressive Neo-Hasidic Judaism (think Michael Lerner and Rabbi Schacter-Shalomi), deeply informed by Kabbalah, is the closest contemporary religion to the spirituality of Jesus, IMO. I’ll relay to you what I wrote on another blog recently. Blessings to you, friend:

            Myself, I experience two things about God/Spirit/The Sacred simultaneously: the overwhelming and certain reality of a Divine Heart above/around/behind/below Creation, and the overwhelming and certain presence of this SAME Heart within Creation, working, playing, and longing to be more fully born here. I don’t know what to make of this conjoined experience of the Sacred (which only appears conjoined rather than unified under the analysis of ordinary consciousness, like we’re doing here) except to affirm simultaneously the reality of Heaven (the Transcendent) and Earth (Creation, the Immanent). Which means, Creation really matters … the whole point of being on the tight rope in the first place is to bring enjoyment to others, while developing our own capacities as an acrobat; but critically, there IS a safety net, and that safety net is Heaven.

            _____

            My tiny mind cannot understand an Enriched Infinite, whatever it can possibly mean for the Infinite to grow, especially by entering into relationship with creatures such as ourselves… but that is the Judeo-Christian mystery I experience, and my money is on it having something to do with Love being Ultimate.

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            I’m content to assume that we’ve said the same thing. Any textural difference is just personality.

          • Josh Magda

            “God cannot be brought down to creation. As you say, “we have never left it.”

            The inexplicable mystery for me is both that we have never left It, indeed we ARE It (as nearly all good Christian mystics and “heretics” since the beginning have claimed, alongside their brothers and sisters in all the traditions) and that simultaneously, indeed It can bring more of Itself “down,” into Creation, into radical relationship.

            Christianity talks about this mystery in terms of the two different yet unified natures of Christ, who is fully God, or totally atemporal and infinite, complete and full, and yet fully human, or by nature incomplete, still capable of change, growth, and further development. We who are created already “in the image” of this Divine Reality (or as we might say in today’s scientific language, as a holon of God) are also capable of further “becoming partakers of the Divine Nature,” according to Peter.

          • Kevin Osborne

            An option might be to accept the above ideas as real, without trying to figure them out in relationship to each other.

          • Josh Magda

            That is the only option available, as they are not meant to be figured out. :) If we can figure God out, God is no longer God. Some of us have learned to Love our inability to control or define God (define, literally, to “put limits on”) because God always winds up being better than we can imagine in these little exercises in futility.

            Still, the inability to crack the walnut that is the Beloved drives some people nuts!

          • Kevin Osborne

            So God wishes us not to figure them out? :) God as GOD is going to be tough, but God as manifestation in this place is just a puzzle, as I suspect is intended. I love puzzles, if they’re not too hard.

          • Josh Magda

            It was God as G-D whose ineffability I was referring to. I agree, the contours of the spiritual journey here are so simple, we often miss them. Jesus’ summation of the Law and Prophets works for me, which I further summarize as “Love the Whole with your Whole.” God is not nearly as interested in our theology as we are. What God really seems to enjoy and value here, is abundant Life. :-)

          • Kevin Osborne

            God is Arthur Conan Doyle and we are Holmes, Watson and Moriarty in various cloaks. Oh, and thankfully, Irene Alder. Outside the universe God is GOD and can be experienced as PRESENCE that is diluted but impressive. My experience.

          • Y. A. Warren

            By gum, I think you’ve got it!

          • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

            “If we can figure God out, God is no longer God. “

            You inspired me to visit an old friend.

            Tao Te Ching
            Chapter 1.

            The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
            The name that can be named is not the eternal name
            The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth
            The named is the mother of myriad things
            Thus, constantly without desire, one observes its essence
            Constantly with desire, one observes its manifestations
            These two emerge together but differ in name
            The unity is said to be the mystery
            Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders

            ————
            Translation quoted with permission: from http://www.Taoism.net and Tao Te Ching: Annotated & Explained, published by SkyLight Paths in 2006

            We sing an ancient song.

          • Josh Magda

            Indeed, in 2500 years we wordy people have not done better than “the Tao that can be named is not the Eternal Tao,” but that hasn’t stopped us from trying! Something causes us to keep up the attempt. That something is the Word of God, called Christ in my tradition. Or as the Psalms say and Jews pray every morning: “Open my mouth, that my lips may sing your praise.” Rabbi Nechman of Breslov probably had it right: “God must Love to hear stories.” :-) Or as I wrote in my journal years before learning of Eckhart:

            God is our dream.
            And we are God’s dream.

            May we dream beautiful dreams
            And awaken quickly from nightmares.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Thank you for this.

          • Kevin Osborne

            Thank you, that is gorgeous.

          • Kevin Osborne

            Very nicely said. I agree with the last paragraph, if many is the sense of understanding that one is one of many who is One.
            I can’t quite agree with your stated purpose of Western Religion, possibly from donor envy. Cathedrals are large statements. As to speculation on the purposes of God, each vote is equal IMO.

      • Kevin Osborne

        I never use the word ego because it cannot be accurately defined, in my opinion.
        If we use the word, “self”, then I’ll agree with you except that a considerable downsizing of self can occur, to the point it is just a little fellow hardly worth worrying about.
        I wonder if your definition of reality as used above holds up very well in strong light. We could take a look and see.
        However, I am very sure fairies and other creatures exist in some fashion so the distance to row aside may be daunting.

        • http://brmckay.wordpress.com/ brmckay

          Yes, ‘self’. Better.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X