The more authentic our desires, the more they touch upon our identities and also upon the reality of God at the heart of our being. Philip Sheldrake
We were designed with core longings that give direction to our life and fuel our relationship with God and our fellow human beings. Often these inner desires are difficult to discern and name because they get buried underneath life events, wounds and self-deceptions. On the other hand, our more superficial desires are easy to identify, like for example, “I want a promotion” or “I want to lose weight” or “I want recognition.” These are attractive and will tantalize us, but when used to substitute for the deep sense of purpose and security we were created for, they hold us hostage. These illegitimate attachments are a stark contrast to God who will not enslave us. God, in his freedom to love, made us free spiritual creatures capable of choosing him as the source of our aspirations or some other means.
We were made for love and by love, but our hearts are idol making factories, possibly because we much prefer to be autonomous, self-sufficient and in control. The problem is that any other object of our devotion, absorbs us. We end up worshiping it, giving all our time, money and energy to it. In effect, our idols hold us hostage. They cannot make us spiritually whole nor fully satisfy because they work against the way of love and abundant living.
In the gospel stories, Jesus routinely asked people who were spiritually hungry such questions as: “What do you want?” “What do you want me to do for you?” “Do you want to be healed?” These questions opened the door to conversations that helped them connect with their deepest longing. Jesus was fully aware that beneath all desires, good and bad, lie our most authentic yearning—a desire for God. Although our deep desires may be more difficult to identify and name, they lead us to discover who we are and what we were meant to do. Notice below our core longings:
Love — To be loved by someone who knows everything about us and yet will go to scandalous lengths to show it.
Purpose — To have a purpose in life; an undeniable reason for our existence which produces a driving motivation.
Understanding — To be understood by someone who knows us through and through.
Security — To feel safe and protected by a strong defender.
Significance — To know our existence matters beyond just being noticed to being celebrated.
Belonging — To find ourselves in a family that not only accepts us, but can’t imagine life without us.
Even though, we have this proclivity to attach to lesser gods and worship them, God will not give up on us, he en-fleshes himself and shows us the way out of our self-imposed alienation from him. The truth of the matter is that we need a lifetime to be transformed and healed. This is because our hearts are very self-deceptive. In the meantime, God waits for us to come home to love and life.
One of the first steps towards spiritual wholeness is the awareness of what drives us to do what we do. We need to have an honest and frank conversation with Jesus and name our desires before him, no matter how superficial or even unhealthy they are. Jesus helps us to sort out our desires gone rogue. He offers healing and transformation. This is what he did for John and James when they sought positions of prominence in the Kingdom. Most likely he felt deep compassion when he told them, “You do not know what you are asking.” To the woman at the well in search of security, love and belonging, he offered water that would forever quench her thirst.
I invite you to have an honest conversation with Jesus about your desires. Talk to him about your desires—superficial or deep, good or bad. Here is a prayer guide by Brian McLaren to help you begin. Afterwards, continue listening for Jesus in all of life.1 Be on the lookout for circumstances and places where Jesus may want to continue the conversation.
Think of your own personal circumstances at this particular time in your life, what are you longing for? Answer the following questions:
How long Lord, until… (Describe what you are longing for.)
I’m waiting Lord for you to… (Describe what you need God to do or supply for you.)
Until then, I trust you and reach out to you for… (Describe the virtue or personal quality that you need to be sustained this day, this moment.)
As you continue on the path of seeking him first in your life, you will find that fulfillment in him, and in the process discover who you really are—your true identity hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3).
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
¹Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality.
Carmen Fleming is an Odyssey in Christ spiritual director and along with her participation on the retreat and seminar staff, she serves on the OIC Board as secretary.