Is anybody else confused about desire? On the one hand “God will give you the desires of your heart..” On the other, “The heart is deceitful…who can know it…” If you’ve been around the Christian faith for any length of time you’ve likely heard a sermon (or forty) about the tug-o-war between what I want vs. what God wants.
Digging into desire includes:
- Opening to consider God’s dream of us–seeing
- Recognizing where we presently resist invitations to freedom–suspicions
- Looking at what has shaped us–self-awareness
What if the more in touch with our desires we become, the closer we come to “knowing God’s will for our lives,” a Christian phrase that has caused many well-intentioned high school seniors ulcer-inducing anxiety which turns into adult exhaustion?
What if we put some effort into becoming aware of what we want and responding to that, instead of making “God’s will” a mysterious code that only a lucky and smart few are able to crack? What if God’s will is inside us, not outside us? What if God’s will is less about what we do to be loved and more about our living into our identity as The Beloved? What if we paid better attention to what our hearts are already whispering to us? It is not the only factor in discernment, but it is a critical one.
Are you suspicious about the topic of desire? Perhaps it is warranted since we know that desire gone awry can lead us down nefarious paths.
But what if instead we put all that suspicious energy into the exciting prospect that God puts in us what he wants us to want, according to who God dreams of our becoming?
My recent trip to the cemetery made me think about what I want–but not, as you might assume, in the bucket-list sense of the word. It felt good to be there since it had been a while.
Dad’s marker reads, “Gone to Heaven; meet me there.” Beside it, Mom’s declares, “Beloved Wife, Mother and Grandmother.” Characteristic of headstones, they each capture some essence of a life but neither is comprehensive in scope.
I only lived in their home for my first eighteen years yet their influence left an indelible imprint that 40-plus years of marriage and a life independent of their authority did little to obscure.
For instance, my penchant for overthinking, and my appreciation for road trips and ranches comes from Dad while Mom left me with unparalleled expectations for grandmothering. I tried to love quilting and crafting because she did. Honest. It took some time (and a lot of unfinished projects!) to discover that those were her preferences. I am still discovering my own.
As I have grown in self-awareness, I have begun to understand why I have difficulty with knowing my own desires, or giving myself permission to have desires at all.
For example, Mom had a charming way of steering my younger self which was full of FOMO (fear of missing out). “Oh, no…you don’t want that,” she would say with a chuckle, avoiding many a meltdown by gently whoosing away my childish requests as if they were nothing of substance to cause either of us a moment’s concern. And for the moment, they didn’t.
Such strategies work for petulant children, but over the long-term it becomes important to name one’s needs. The inability to do so can result in:
- Paralysis in choosing
- Fear of asking
- Feelings of unworthiness
- Holding too tightly to acquired possessions
- Impacting every area of life from deciding on a career to shopping for shoes
Perhaps what you want and what God wants aren’t all that different. It just may take a little excavating. What awaits is the freedom of discovering that what God desires, God has already put in your heart.
How can you dig into your own desire?
Get curious. It may be buried deep. Ask God to show you what you want.
Notice what your heart is drawn toward.
Pay attention and record it over the next week or so at the end of each day.
What do you notice in nature, scripture, spontaneous thought, snippets of engaging conversation, memories that randomly surface?
What might God be showing you about your desires though these moments?
How are you responding or resisting? Why?
- Spend a few minutes in reflection at the end of the time
- Note any common thread(s)
- Talk to a trusted friend
- Trust your desires to God
Ruth Haley Barton of The Transforming Center does great work around the topic of desire. If any of this resonates with you, you can watch her talk about it here.
[Mom and Dad raised Boston Terriers. I had to include this photo which looks just like theirs. :)]