Having raised two children and seeing the grandchildren moving up the grades in school, I am well familiar with the tendency to heart those words "I want" more than I care to have heard them. Most parents deal with this "I want" phase of childhood by trying to sculpt their children's desires into realistic and meaningful ones rather than indulging each and every "I want" as though it was an immediate need which required being met. If we did meet every one of their "I want" demands, we probably raised pretty spoiled children! More importantly, we never helped them realize the world isn't all about them! There are times when our "wants" are really demands and they are all based in this belief of us being the most important one in the picture at the moment. There are probably very few of our "wants" which actually equate to "needs" in our life - but isn't it amazing how loudly our "wants" proclaim themselves?
You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful. Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again. But I’m in the very presence of God—oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord God my home. God, I’m telling the world what you do! (Psalm 73:25-28 MSG)
There is one definite "need" in life which actually is a truthful need - the desire to know God on a deeply personal level. Unfortunately, some don't ever see this as a need, content to just "know of" God, but never really coming to "know" God. I think this might be related to how we perceive our needs in life - if the needs we have are all about what is in it for us, we miss the important point that this is a two-way relationship between us and God. As with all other relationships, one-way relating does not go very far toward developing intimacy and true communication. If all we do is tell God all our "wants" and never allow him to refine them into what we actually "need" versus what will bring us immediate pleasure or satisfaction, we are truly missing the boat.
When God has the "authority" to filter our "wants", we are actually saying we give God permission to show us where we are still in the control of our lives. This may not seem like much at first, but if we allow another to help us clarify what it is we "need" vs. "want", we are really saying we trust that person to help us make decisions which will affect our lives. This is the first step toward deep intimacy in relationship - being open and honest enough with another to be "vulnerable" in what is shared and in what may come back to you in the form of feedback. Sometimes what we don't see in our "wants" is the very thing which keeps us in bondage to something or someone. At other times, our "wants" are just about us - there is no foundation of considering the needs or wants of another, it is all about us. Either way, we have much to learn at the feet of Jesus when it comes to deferring to his help on refining our "wants" and showing us what are actually our true "needs".
As David pens this prayer to God, he is finding himself caught off-guard again by how easily he can get distracted in life. He opens with the idea of almost missing out on God's movement in his life because he was looking the other way. Now, when we are so focused on our "wants", it is easy to get our focus totally misdirected. He found himself envying what others had, did, and enjoyed. He got his focus on the other guy - comparing what they had, how easily it came into their lives, what they could do because they had what they did, etc. Sound familiar? This is the basis of almost all advertisement on the TV these days - showing us what we don't have, creating in us a desire to get it, and then telling us how "fulfilled" we will be if we get it! It doesn't matter if it is the potato chip which proclaims we cannot eat just one, or if it is the automobile commercial which makes all driving of their sleek automobile look like an Indy 500 race. You can count on this - the schemes of Satan's heart are designed to get our eyes off of what God wants for our lives and onto what it is we can be duped into by his schemes as "needs" and "wants" promising immediate fulfillment.
Most of us recognize the futility of getting our eyes on anything other than Christ, but how many of us actually recognize how much "drift" we allow in our focus. If you have ever sat still for a moment, looking at something in front of you, then found yourself gradually looking all around at the stuff around what it was you were looking at, you understand this idea of drift. Our eyes were designed to pick up in the periphery - we see stuff that isn't even in our direct visual path. This makes focus more difficult to maintain sometimes. We actually have to concentrate to stay focused! This is why I actually make a list before I go to the grocery store! If I don't want to spend way over my budget for groceries, I need the list! Why? I get caught up in what my eye beholds! Before long, my cart holds what my eye beholds! Drift has occurred. There is this same thing which occurs in relationship - when we aren't focused on living with intent, we allow for drift!
Our psalmist describes this whole battle within which is pretty much what all of us deal with - we see what we want, start to go after it without really thinking if it is what we need, and then when we get a little ways into the pursuit of it, we might just have a little remorse about the pursuit. In the end, we find ourselves appealing to God to get us out of the mess our "wants" have lured us into. He even describes the sheer "headache" of trying to figure out the difference between what he was envying and what he really needed to be pursuing in life. I appreciate the honesty of David's heart to tell us how much it actually "hurts" to make unwise decisions! There is a whole lot of "headache" and "heartache" with drift! Where is it he finds clarity and gets hold of how much he has drifted? In the sanctuary of God! Nothing brings clarity quicker than to come into the presence of God and just sit quietly before him in worshipful thought. All those "wants" become clear to us as either false promises, or as luring temptations. In his presence, we get focus again.
Sometimes the toughest part of our Christian walk is just maintaining focus. The single-most difficult thing to do "independently" is live righteously! We need each other, the Holy Spirit, and the Word to help us with focus and to bring us into revelation about what we truthfully "need" in this life. "Wants" are innumerable - but as we finally get centered on our "need" for deep relationship with Jesus, our "wants" begin to pale in comparison to this single "need"! When HE becomes the center of our focus - he becomes all we "want" in this life! Just sayin!