Basic Instinct

I’m not sure if this is one of those myths that roll around and you eventually believe or if it is based on truth, but as some point I remember learning or being told that humans are born with two basic instincts. The first is the instinct to suckle.


As I type this a memory comes rushing forth. Not sure how this evolved, and as a parent I don’t think I’d admit this on anything with my name attached. When my daughter was just an infant, there were three things that would make her cry. So when she would get rolling we had the checklist. Dirty diaper? Tired? Hungry? Now, since I could not feed my daughter (only mom had the physical assets to accomplish that), I developed a check. I’d bend my head down to her and put the tip of my nose within reach of her mouth. If she latched on, that was proof positive she was hungry. There’s the suckle instinct. Gross. Dad needs a lesson in hygiene.

The second instinct is to grasp. Like when you fall, your instinct is to grab for something, without thinking. I think that this instinct has a definite spiritual component as well. For the past month, I’ve been out of the desert. Really enjoying my new role, new community, new challenges, etc. But, I have noticed a tendency to grasp.

While in the desert, one of the greatest learnings I had was how to hold things with open hands. In particular, my calling was an example of this. Without a doubt, I knew that God wanted me back in vocational ministry. He designed me for it and compelled me to it. The calling was clear and evident to me, and I’d even say to those close to me. Yet, even while compelled, I was able to hold this loosely. Not striving and refraining from pushing my way forward when nothing was evident. Yet, at the same time, I was able to accept modest opportunities when they presented. While I was thankful for the opportunities to speak, I held back from overstepping the opportunity.

That’s holding things with open hands. Following God’s lead, but not running out in front. Not grasping on to the old ways. I did the same in other areas: my marital expectations, developing relationships, and spirituality to give a few examples.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed the temptation to clench my spiritual hands together and grab on tightly begin to creep in. Clinging to the old. It is the same old battle with my pride. It is so important to deny myself daily.

Today was a particularly acute day. All day I clung to my fear of inadequacy. Afraid that I would not measure up. Pride plain and simple. In the midst of changes and challenges, it became so easy to reach out and cling to the old and familiar. Believing the lie. It was almost instinctual. Yet I know it’s not, it is just my root sin. My evil pal.

There are also some dreams that I’ve been clinging to, again that involve my pride. Going back to the false lens that evaluates people’s worth by what they can do for me. For me, this is the latest episode in my Paschal Mystery that God has put before me. Releasing some of my old expectations and desires that I have, particularly in my marriage, so that God can bless me with the new. In this case, the old is so much easier to cling to because the new is not my vision or even necessarily what will make me happiest in a worldly kind of way. Yet God knows best. And releasing these dreams is my latest act of trust. Or rather, will be when I am able to honestly say that I’ve let them go.

Tonight in the car, I yelled at God. For about ten minutes. Just let Him have it. I cling to my anger. Great counsel has been given to me that I must learn to do something with my anger, I just struggle to know what that is. God is involved in the process somehow. If I cling to it and hold it in, that is just more pride (for me, it’s really all about pride). Pride in acting as if I can solve the problem myself. If I just act like it’s not there, it will go away. Won’t it? Denying my need for God.

So I yelled. And cried, although that doesn’t seem very manly to admit (doooohhh, more pride). That’s a step of trust that God is going to love me anyway. That He’ll be able to accept how I’m really feeling and won’t abandon me. It actually let to a good evening of prayer alone in my study. Pretty sure yelling isn’t the long term solution, but neither is holding onto the anger with a tight fist.

Pride clouded the lens. But I am choosing the Gospel lens. Believing that God loves me and wants to bear my burdens (anger) with me and He’ll never leave me nor forsake me – even when I would not judge my performance to be adequate.

I am choosing to trust that His plans for me are so much better than the plans that I have for myself. So, letting go of my dreams, expectations and vision of what would fulfill me becomes possible only with the Gospel lens. Otherwise I would continue to be consumed trying to fill my only perceived areas of lack.

As far as my fear, I have to trust that the works of service that God has called me to were prepared by God in advance. Not as a test to determine my worth, but as an opportunity He created for me to worship with my life. I am already fully secure with Him, regardless of my performance.

The Gospel lens beats the basic instinct.
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