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The End of Desire 

Posted By on October 19, 2017

by Teri Ong 

 Introduction: I wrote this blog two weeks ago, just after the Las Vegas shootings. In the weeks since it happened, we have learned a little more about the shooter, his name, his age, his socio-economic status, and a few other perfunctory details. But we have learned very little about his inner motivation. The act was thoroughly premeditated. However, if anyone knows what made this man buy $20,000 worth of firearms, not to mention thousands of rounds of ammunition, plus surveillance cameras, tripods, chemicals for bombs, then set up his own deadly machine gun nest in an expensive hotel room, they are not talking. I was gratified in a sad way that after I had written this piece, I heard a radio analyst say that the shooter did what he did “because he wanted to.” 

 In the middle of last night, I was awakened by a news bulletin on the radio of the worst mass shooting in American history. A man in his 60’s rented a hotel room on the 32nd floor of a hotel across the street from an open-air country music festival. For some reason, probably known only to himself, he opened fire on the crowd with a variety of automatic weapons that did great damage in a short time. From his vantage point, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Then when the police were closing in him, he shot himself. 

As crazy and inexplicable as it seems to us “normal” people, the reason he shot at the crowd of 22,000 people across the street from him hotel is because he had a desire to shoot at them. So far, we don’t really know why he had that desire. But desire it he did. He planned it out weeks in advance, buying unusual weapons and a large supply of ammunition, making hotel reservations for a particular floor overlooking a particular venue. Perhaps he got some sadistic satisfaction as he pulled the trigger. Perhaps he vented a lifetime of hatred and frustration. Perhaps he felt an evil thrill from the adrenaline rush. Then it all came to a quick end when he shot himself. 

In Charles Williams’, spiritual thriller, Many Dimensions, the action revolves around the Stone of Suleiman Ben Daood (Solomon, Son of David) set in the crown of a Jew, (p.14) and inscribed with the Divine Name. The stone has a mystical power to fulfill anyone’s desires. In fact, the legend of the stone declares it to be the “end of desire.” However, the more it is used for temporal or material benefits, the more desires people have. Various characters are willing to sacrifice great sums of money, enter into unholy alliances, deceive people into performing dangerous experiments, and even commit murder to have control of the stone.  

Two characters in the story have a different desire. They want to uncover the true secret of the stone and remove it from the grasp of greedy, self-serving humanity. As the story unfolds, the reader comes to understand that the stone is symbolic of the Biblical “Stone of Stumbling” or “Stone of Offense.”   The secret of the stone is that when the holder submits to the will of the stone, the holder no longer has any desires of his own and comes to perfect peace and rest. In other words, he finds the happy end of desire.  But anyone who uses the stone to fulfill his own desires comes to ruin or destruction. 

In “real life,” Christians know that peace and satisfaction are indeed found in submitting to the will of Christ, the Stone which the builders rejected. And in “real life,” we also know that God sometimes gives sinful people their way, and then sends leanness of soul. (Psalm 106:15) The Las Vegas shooter found the end of earthly life after he tried to find the end of his desire (whatever it was), but he did not find the end of desire. Probably, like the rich man in Sheol, he just found different unfulfilled desires. (Luke 16:24) 

In Williams’ novel, the ruination of some of the characters leads to the enlightenment of others. Perhaps the shock of one evening that started out as innocuous entertainment but ended in unexpected terror and devastation will cause some of those who were present, and some who have watched from the distance of news media, to consider that life is a vapor and that the blessed end of desire is found in a relationship with the Eternal God. 

Ironically, the evening before the terrible shooting, I had been studying the lesson by the Puritan William Ames for the Lord’s Day Number 40 in A Sketch of the ChristianCatechism , which is on “You shall not murder.” (Ex. 20:13) Ames wrote, “Murder is the gravest injury that can be inflicted on a human as far as this present life is concerned.”  The uses’ he lists for his lesson on this topic include, “that we may take heed to ourselves to depart from all affections and internal dispositions by which people are customarily provoked and led to wounding their neighbors unjustly.”  In other words, we need to check our hearts for evil motives that may cause us to want to hurt others.  He lists the following possibilities: 

1.Irascibility [that is, easily becoming irate] 

2.Hatred … confirmed and lodged in the mind… from which the impulse to wound follows 

3.Envies by which people bear the condition of others so grievously that they wish some evil on them 

4.A desire for vengeance by which people customarily render evil for evil. 

Photo Credit: Teri Ong

 

As bad as it is to harm our neighbor physically, Ames points out, “The life of the spiritual man is his most precious possession, surpassing the corporeal life by far.” For this reason, doing injury to someone’s spiritual life is a greater evil than harming their body, though we should strive to do neither. But even Christians tend to think physically and fail to think about how we can injure and wound our neighbors spiritually. 

The end of Ames’ lesson states, “Our duty is not only to abstain from the things by which the life of our neighbor may be wounded, either corporeally or spiritually, but also studiously to exhibit everything by which his corporeal and spiritual lives can be aided and made more lively.” He suggests the following: “1) the study of peace, 2) patience, 3) civility, 4) mercy and kindness, and 5) the spiritual alms of instruction… as the occasion should demand.” 

I pray that as our attention is drawn once again to a massive failure of love, love toward God and toward fellow men, that we will consider carefully how we can submit our own desires to the will of our Savior and show sacrificial love as He did on our behalf. 

 

Sweet Will of God  

My stubborn will at last hath yielded; 

I would be Thine, and Thine alone; 

And this the prayer my lips are bringing, 

Lord, let in me THY will be done. 

Sweet will of God, still fold me closer, 

Till I am wholly lost in Thee. 

-Leila N. Morris 


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