My wife and I dream of going to French Polynesia. It’s the place you see in magazines, on Pinterest and the Travel Channel where wooden huts dangle over crystal clear water and the sun is ever shining. I want to go there. I want to enjoy the beauty and swim in the blue water. I want to go with my wife while someone else watches our three kids. I want a break in a beautiful place. And while I’m on the subject, I want to go after losing 30 pounds. And I want someone else to pay. And first class seats. Maybe a private jet.
Want. There are different types of want. My desire to go to French Polynesia is in the “wouldn’t it be nice” category. I dream of it occasionally when I’m stirred by the pictures of the idyllic beach setting, but realize that it is largely a fantasy. Especially the 30 pounds and private jet. Other wants are more immediate and pressing. I want a new car because mine clunks and clanks. I want a mattress that is comfortable. I want a cheaper electrical bill and affordable health care. I want my kids to obey my every word. I want the next cool gadget. And I want a cheeseburger, which might work against the whole 30 pound thing.
Want is a ubiquitous feeling among the human species. We all want something. Probably more accurately, we all want some things. And even as I contemplate the wants of my life, I encounter ancient words from the Hebrew scriptures, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Think about that for a moment. I-shall-not-want. They are stirring and profound words that seem foreign to me. And yet there they are, in Psalm 23, one of the most treasured passages in the human language.
It is hard for me to imagine what the world would look like without want. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine what my life would look like without want. Want is pervasive. It too frequently rules our lives. And maybe that is the point of these words. Want shouldn’t rule our life. We shouldn’t be driven by want. It shouldn’t be our master. But so often it is.
David, the writer of Psalm 23, understood that the antidote to a life mastered by want is one that is mastered by another. That is why he begins the Psalm with “The Lord is my shepherd.” A life without want can only be achieved by the shelter and care of a shepherd that can care for our needs. It is found in understanding who God is and nurturing a relationship with Him. It comes from a response to an invitation to live life with God.
Our notion of want changes as we are lead by one who can take care of all of our needs. French Polynesia sounds great, but a life without want sounds even better. As paradoxical as it sounds, I want that kind of life.