Summers in Orangeburg were torrid. Situated in a geographic line between Florence, S.C. and Augusta, Ga., the big “O” sits in the middle of what is known as the sand hills. Normal days in July and August customarily reach 100 degrees with 100% humidity. Known as the Garden City, Orangeburg rests its reputation on the Festival of Roses and the Edisto Memorial Gardens. Not all roses, the Garden City has its share of social issues, but my memories reside in those searing summer days, sand gnats, horseflies and a wet towel over my head to keep them at bay. My friend, Mary, who now lives just northwest in Columbia says of the summertime, “We’re just a screen door from Hell.” An apt description.
Enough sweat left my pores in those days, I determined returning to live there was not an option. Want for most things is a driving force, leaving Orangeburg included. Want pulls at a person as if born with a nose ring just like all other appendages. So natural is it to follow our want, thinking about its consequences doesn’t always surface.
Want, by itself, isn’t wrong. Wanting too much or the wrong thing, filling the void most experience sometime and somewhere, want can turn into expectation and expectation’s only end is to want too much. Its sneaky consequence is arrogance. The problem here is want blinds us to love and from it.
Mom always said to her children—you’re not too old for your wants to hurt you. Well, dammit, I got hurt a lot until I understood want was not the goal. Besides the arrogance I denied in myself, there was some self-rejection alongside it. Loving self took time. Accepting love took longer.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “But neurosis is often the psychic manifestation of a much deeper human darkness: the darkness of not feeling truly welcome in human existence. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.”
This want sat directly between me and God. Erecting barriers around yourself, cutting yourself off from the Almighty, even innocently and unknowingly, deprives even the most well-intentioned from the relationship for which God created us.
Looking around today, tempted into cynicism by the 24/7 cycle, it appears we don’t love enough or accept love. But aren’t there many who have yet to lay down their want, to realize God’s purpose and truth? And once this relationship with God is restored, once we are awakened to being His beloved, we can’t love too much.
All who know this have a burden to love others and self in a way the neuroses and cynicisms and wants pale against the peace lying within us. To fill the void with God over all the other choices tempting us must be self-evident in a Christian’s life.
It’s not easy. We have to want it.
“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).