Beware of the first step

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. 
(Henry David Thoreau)

My pastor did a wonderful job this past week describing the power of that "first step", so to speak. In his teaching, he described the pathway from desire to addiction. Desire is a good thing - it drives us to move, take on new things, and even to experience deep, meaningful relationship with others. Desire gone awry is not such a good thing - for the path first walked, when repeatedly walked will become a rut we find ourselves too easily drawn into as desire seeks to be fulfilled.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Desire is actually used to describe that deep longing one gets in the heart and mind that drives one to act upon or seek fulfillment of that "aching" or "longing" one is experiencing. It is the feeling we are describing when we use our words such as "hanker", "long", "pine", and "yearn". God created the ability for us to "desire" - he also created our free-will. He doesn't curb our desire - nor does he bend it to conform to his will. He DOES ask for us to submit our desire to him, to begin to long for the things he desires for us, and to exercise self-control over the things which create a yearning not so easily escaped.

Most of desire begins in the mind - it is the pathway we create by going a certain direction with our thoughts or actions. At first, that path isn't visible - there are some telltale signs we have crossed that way, but there really isn't clear evidence of a path, let alone a rut. The more and more we travel that same direction with our thought or actions, the more we will fall into the "habit" of traveling that path. Maybe this is why God wants to be the one to "order our steps". He knows we don't do all that great of a job avoiding the places we shouldn't be traveling!

Desire can cause us to treasure certain things, while we might come to curse others. You might ask how it could do both and I'd have to say any good desire, when carried to the extreme, can become addictive in nature. We might like the immediate pleasure of the serotonin and dopamine release when we eat chocolate, but eat too much at one time and the serotonin and dopamine release isn't all that "pleasurable" anymore. Those "feel good" hormones work well in small quantities, but when we over-indulge, we become numb to their effect.

That is the point my pastor made - we can become numb to what once brought us simple pleasure whenever we pursue it outside of the boundaries and protection of God's oversight, protection, and guidelines. Some people call these "boundaries", but I call them "guard rails". They aren't designed to keep us away from anything good, but from the edges where certain decline is inevitable. Just sayin!


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