"Wait a minute, what do I really want?" a friend uttered to me recently as if speaking the language of epiphany. He had found himself initiating new interests in things, filling his time with pastimes—pining after that new thing that would change everything—when he realized that there was a search behind all of his searching. "Why am I doing all of these things; what am I really looking for?" The question was something of an awakening.
Someone recently told me that all behavior is goal-oriented. It is a simple, but incredibly rich thought. Indeed, walking through my week with the idea in mind was as striking as it was enlightening. Looking at my words, my actions, even my prayers in light of my goal, inquiring as to the motive, I realized how easy it is to be unaware of my own heart. "You don't know what you are asking," Jesus replied to the sons of Zebedee. Sometimes we just don't see.
As singer/songwriter Rich Mullins writes, "Everybody I know says they need just one thing/And what they really mean is that they need just one thing more." Like my friend who found himself reacting behaviorally before examining the motivation, quite often we are unaware of what we really want and startled by the invitation to see more. "What do you want?" Jesus asked the blind man calling out for him.
How do we know what we really mean, what we really want? How do we learn to see the search behind our searching? And is it always as simple as seeing? Can we always get to our motives?
Lent, it seems, is a good time to try, even as it serves as a reminder that we sometimes cannot discern our motives, and our own hearts often deceive us. Writes C.S. Lewis, "Humans are very seldom either totally sincere or totally hypocritical. Their moods change, their motives are mixed, and they are often themselves quite mistaken as to what their motives are."
While Jesus was walking one day in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders came to him. "By what authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you authority to do this?" (see Mark 11:27-33).
Jesus replied with a question. "I will ask you one thing. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things: Was John's baptism from heaven or from men?"
The leaders discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, 'From heaven,' he will ask, 'Then why didn't you believe him?' But if we say, 'From men' the people will react for they believe that John really was a prophet.
So they answered, 'We don't know.' And Jesus said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."
The exchange is a telling look at the heart of man. Did they see their own motives as clearly as Jesus presented them? They certainly had the capacity to reason with a goal in mind. As John tells us, "…Many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man" (2:23-25).
During the weeks of Lent, we are invited to prepare our hearts and minds, to examine the hidden clutter of our souls, and see the grime and cobwebs that have accumulated. And in seeing this, we see not our need to try harder, but our need for the One who sees. For though some days I cannot even see my own motives, I can entrust myself to the One who sees me, knowing that by his grace He gives us ears to hear and eyes to see.
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries