Don’t Curb Your Ambition!

This week, I was speaking with a woman named Susan about her Christian experience. She began explaining how she views herself. “I think I’m unique,” she said. “I feel like my passion for life and my curiosity, maybe even my personality and the way I’m wired, is more extreme than the experience of the garden-variety Christian.”

Her conclusion was that her passions were too strong to be satisfied by the limits of what the church and the Gospel have to offer her. As a consequence, she wants to test the limits, to “play the edges,” of the grace of God and the Christian experience. She feels an emptiness, a longing inside herself that the Christian life cannot satisfy. She wants something bigger, something extraordinary.

She thinks his answer could lie in having sex with multiple partners, or maybe doing some kind of mind-altering drug, or achieving certain success in her business. “Whatever the answer,” she said, “it’s beyond the traditional Christian experience.” I understand where she’s coming from. She has grown up in the church. She has seen and heard people talk about Jesus all of her life, and she hasn’t seen, in their testimonies, the same passion for life that she observes in herself. So, she figures that the satisfaction of that passion lies outside of the church’s walls. That’s logical, but–like Ayn Rand says–when you encounter something that doesn’t make sense, check your premises. I think at least two of her premises are questionable. First, she believes (implicitly) that she sees the true state of the lives of these men and women who call themselves Christians. Second, she believes that, when she has observed these people, their experience reflects the outer limits what Jesus does in a person’s life.
I can identify with Susan’s conundrum. In searching for answers to these questions, Reason certainly plays a vital role. I hasten to add, however, that Faith is also an important part of the equation. Referencing Faith, the ultimate question is whether we trust Jesus and his description of the kingdom of God. For example, Jesus validated the life and experience of Moses. Moses’ life with God was literally a “mountaintop experience.” He saw God’s glory and lived to tell about it. His experience of God was so intense that he glowed for days afterward, and he didn’t even see more than the smallest portion of it! Jesus also validated Jacob’s experience of God. Jacob experienced a fuller sense of God’s presence through a dream: angels ascending and descending. When I express faith in Jesus, I am trusting that his description of these followers of God is true, and that he meant it as normative for us today.
Susan’s problem is not that her desires are too strong. It’s not that she is, in any way, overly ambitious. Ayn Rand was spot on when she said, about all of us, that our desires are too weak! Many of us are not passionate and ambitious enough! We should nurture and pursue greater passion. Even Ayn Rand, however, didn’t go far enough. By extolling human achievement and the mind of the individual as the greatest virtue and production as the individual’s most satisfying goal, Rand exchanges the ultimate for the penultimate.
God, through Jesus Christ, is the final satisfaction of our deepest longing. A relationship with him is the totality of what we are designed for.

What do you think about how Christians and Secularists describe the “abundant life”?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

3 thoughts on “Don’t Curb Your Ambition!

  1. But what is this relationship with God, practically? I know what it is to set out trying to reach a secular goal that can bring about satisfaction, but going for a relationship with God is no longer objective, is it?

  2. If you want to increase comments, follow the FB model. Have the comment box already open and ready to receive. As it is now, there are several options at the bottom of the post all closed links. Try having the comments screen opened immediately below the post, like a plate of brownies left out on the table just begging to be gobbled up. Even now, having clicked the link to add comments, the box opens below a list of several other posts, separating me from the original post and the sense that I am in fact replying to Susan's struggle with her "passionate" desires that seem to outstrip Christianity.

    I agree with your take on it, as far as it goes. Susan, however, is also missing a key component to her sense of the world… Wisdom. Wisdom sees the end from the beginning, it explores the consequences of actions as others have encountered them, it does not say, "I'm a special case" "normal rules don't apply to me." It knows how things work not because it has personally experienced all things, but because it has observed those who have and learns from their experiences. It is not fooled by short term tantalizations but sees the consequences of actions and submits itself to the wisdom of those who have gone before. What she is experiencing is a foolish arrogance. I don't say this because she feels strongly and wants strongly… I am a kindred soul in that respect… more energy than the average soul, a passionate desire for erotic intimacy (two terms not often going together)… a mind that can't turn off, a craving for beauty and nature. But I believe the Prophets and sages of Scripture, that wanton living leads to spiritual death and the ruination of one's own family, and the destabilization of the nation when this type of behavior becomes the norm for a society. One of the great traps of the wanton life is the false testimony of those in the throws of it. Wisdom tracks long-term consequences and makes choices accordingly. It is hard to be self-controlled… but the hard things are usually the most rewarding. Man's ultimate fulfillment is found in God alone.

  3. I am logged in under FB. It took a long time to type that response… it kept freezing. It took a long time to get it to post… it kept freezing. If this is a common experience people might be getting frustrated and quitting.

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