In the beautiful city of Claremont where I live, there is a lively little section of shops and dining called The Village, and I occasionally go there to study and write. Recently I was sitting in the outdoor plaza there, which has a creative, interactive fountain that is well-loved by the children of our town. As I was working, I happened to see two ladies walking past with a little boy in tow, who was perhaps 5 years old. The boy’s mom had a hold of his hand, but as they walked past the fountain (which the two ladies seemed not to notice at all) the boy was visibly attempting to get out of his mother’s grasp, and he kept longingly looking at the splashing water as he was dragged past it into The Coffee Bean cafe.
I smiled to myself at the boy’s obvious preference of playing in the fountain over sitting in the cafe while his mom and her friend chatted, and inwardly commiserated with him in his unfortunate situation. But then I got back to my work and forgot all about the boy, until some time later when he emerged with a grin from Coffee Bean, unrestrained by his mother’s grasp, and headed straight for the fountain. His mother was still deep in conversation with her friend, but threw a halfhearted threat in the boy’s direction, telling him not to get wet. Sarcasm got the best of me as I thought to myself, “Good luck–that’s not going to happen!”
Well, sure enough, the gravitational pull of the water proved to be greater than the fear of mom’s threat. But it was intriguing to watch that play out in front of me. First the boy just walked up to the edge of the fountain, then he pretended to dip one foot in the water. Eventually the foot that was hovering over the water accidentally got a little wet, then it was a full step down into the water with just that foot. After the first foot was soaked, it wasn’t long before the second foot joined in, and with both feet in the water, the delighted little boy couldn’t help but dance around and splash his feet.
I think you can guess as well as I could how this story played out. The stomping feet produced wet pants, and since the pants were wet, why not just sit down in the water? And since sitting down was so delightful, maybe laying down would be even better! In fact, the raised part of the fountain with water pouring into the lower part looks like a little waterfall, so why not crawl through that head-first? So it wasn’t long at all before this little boy was completely soaked from head to toe, and loving every minute of it. All the while, his mother would occasionally look up from her conversation and scold him, but never intervened to stop him.
As I watched this little drama unfold before me, I was enjoying the obvious delight of the little boy, yet at the same time I was dismayed by his complete disregard of his mother’s instructions (as well as her complete failure to follow through). It was as if James 1:14-15 was being acted out in front of me. James describes the progressive nature of sin, starting with desire, giving birth to sin, and finally leading to death. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
The little boy’s desire was obvious–he wanted to play in the fountain. That was not a sinful desire in and of itself, but it became sinful when it was set against his mother’s command to not get wet. But desire is strong, and the boy was lured and enticed by what he desired, until desire morphed into action and the sin of disobedience was born. Unfortunately, if that little boy is not rescued from his sin through trusting in Christ, that seemingly insignificant disobedience will end in total separation from God–he will one day get what he desires and find that he has desired the wrong thing.
To be fair, the mother’s desire was also obvious–she wanted uninterrupted conversation with her friend. That also is not a sinful desire in and of itself, but it became sinful when she elevated her enjoyment over the well-being of her son. She also was lured and enticed by what she desired, and her desire translated into disregard and abdication of her parental role. Unfortunately, what took place that morning was probably already a pattern in her life, and the longer that pattern persists, the greater her need of rescue grows.
So what are you–and what am I–desiring in this moment? Is that desire starting us on a path toward deeper trust and dependence on God? Or is it starting us down the path toward sin and death? We would do well to regularly consider those questions…