"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Discovering the Deepest Desires of Our Heart



By Micky Wolf



“What are the desires of your heart?” I asked.

“Uhh…”

Or.

“Hmmm…well, I want to be a good Christian—you know—love, follow and serve the Lord…a good spouse…

Alternatively, the silence can be resounding when this question is offered in a mentoring or spiritual direction session, or enjoying conversation with a friend.

Our seeming inability and downright resistance to naming our desires has a lot more to do with what I call being content to stay in the safe place of ambiguity than actually doing the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual work of discovering and identifying our specific desires. It is no small thing to realize, on some level, that our reluctance to really pondering this question is rooted in a subtle awareness we will have to face the unpleasant truth that we are more concerned with being comfortable than embracing the unknown and the challenges we may encounter, especially as pertains to being obedient to God’s will for our lives. 

The sad part, if we choose to dodge the process of discovering the desires of our heart, is that to a greater or lesser extent, we are defeated before we ever fully engage in our journey of living a Christ-centered life.

The first step is to recognize and accept that it is God who has placed certain desires in our hearts and it is His hope that we first of all, give voice to them, and secondly, discern with the guidance of the Spirit, which ones are truly in accordance with His will and in what ways we are to take action.

1.      Casting desires from the shadows…

Many of us reside in the shadowy valley of vagueness. We do so because we have become rather adept at defending our lack of specificity and ensuing action—from a scriptural basis no less. Our reasoning, rationalizing and justifying is not without merit, although we may miss the fact we are subtly trying to manipulate God in order to hold fast to what we see as our ‘safe place’. For example:

  • The Truth is…we can do nothing apart from God. [John 15:5] Waiting on the Divine is wisdom, as many of us who have rushed ahead of Him have learned the hard and painful way. The only problem is He can usually never do enough—in the way of signs and wonders—to meet our expectations for clarity and confirmation.
  • The Truth is…God has given us a spirit [His] of power, love, and self-control, not one of fear [cowardice]. [2 Timothy 1:7]  It is one thing, and a good thing, to have healthy fear and awe of the Lord. On the hand, it is not unusual to discover our resistance or hesitation with getting to the root of our desires has a lot more to do with our fear of the unknown; of how our response to carrying out these God-inspired desires might affect our daily life. At the very least, there’s a strong possibility we will need to make the choice to discard and walk away from familiar attitudes or behaviors which heretofore have provided us with some measure of comfort.
2.     Out of darkness into light…

If we give unhealthy fear and doubt the slightest breath, it will inhabit the depths of our being. If we glance in its direction for the tiniest peak, it will overwhelm the landscape of our hopes and dreams. 

If we do not listen to the still small voice of the Spirit which longs to call forth the desires of our hearts, what is to become of them? Bottom line—they simply remain seed. Not good seed or bad seed, rather seed which has little opportunity to be fed and nourished by God, brought into the light of everyday life to grow, mature, and thrive, true witness to the building of the Kingdom of God here on Earth. 

3.     Getting specific…

So, how does getting real with the desires of our heart allow us to leave behind the valley of vagueness and pseudo-comfort? This is a choice, regardless of how it feels.
 
Now, with an open heart, listen. What do you hear the Spirit speaking? Be patient. Allow yourself the gift of time to relax, for the mental clutter to dissipate, the old, familiar voices to exhaust themselves.

Next, begin to write. Pen and paper is great but use whatever tools work best for you. But write. Forget about punctuation and spelling. Forget about good grammar. Forget about what your earthly mother or father spoke into your head years ago. Forget what a well-intentioned spouse or friend may have said, last week or yesterday. Give voice to every desire you have ever had, have at the moment, or hope to have in the future. 

Write some more. Allow the words and phrases of your desires to become real, to have shape and form. Don’t stop until your hand is cramped or you have no energy to tap the keyboard. When, and only when you have no more words to write, stop. 

Here’s what may be the harder part—for now, don’t reread what you have written. Close your journal, fold up your paper [or print out a copy] and put it away in an envelope, for one full week

4.     Taking action…

A week later, open your envelope and begin to read. Don’t be surprised if some anxiety stirs. Remember, it likely has more to do with the shadows than the Light of God’s Truth. As you read, do you feel like laughing? Crying? Tearing up the paper? Tossing it in the trash? Do not. You are on the ladder now, beginning to leave the valley of vagueness and if you focus on what is behind and below you, as safe as it may seem to be, you will remain stuck. Be bold—ask yourself, is staying here what I really desire? 

Don’t beat up on yourself if what you are reading seems preposterous, or way beyond what you think you are capable of being and doing. Now is the time to talk with God about each and every word you wrote. In the process, choose to listen with an open mind and heart. In this way, you and He can begin to separate the wheat from the chaff, the God-inspired from the me-imagined. 

Continue to listen and dialogue with the Spirit on a regular basis. From the quietness of your prayer closet, in your car amidst the hubbub outside your window, or eating a sandwich, listen. You will not only begin to get a clearer sense of the desires God has placed in your heart, but of possible next steps for beginning to live them.

How will you know the next step?

You will discover that your commitment to being quiet and real before the Lord will open the deepest places of your being where He has incarnated these desires. In the beginning, accept that you may resist His gentle nudges of birthing them, yet be assured that in the tiniest of stirrings your spirit, you will know what is being brought into the light represents the unique part of who He has created you to be. 

Once we make the choice to refuse to allow ourselves to be defeated by half-truths, fear, and the doubts which inhabit the shadows of the world in which we live, we are energized and invigorated in ways we never dreamed possible. Fear and doubt will not absolutely vanish, but will simply serve as a reminder of our humanity, of our need to lean on God in all ways. And that, dear one, is true freedom.

Am I more comfortable living in the shadows of my life? Why?

Can I make the choice now, in this moment, to give voice to the deepest desires of my heart?

What do I need from God to take the first step into the light?

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