Sometimes God just wants to talk to me about something. I shudder to think how many of these conversations I may have missed over the years, but I am listening now. Two weeks ago, my reading for the day was Psalm 20, verse 4. It's not long: "May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!" It might seem simple enough to you. It did to me, too, at first. My first impulse was to pray this verse for someone else, but as I started to do that, I heard a quiet whisper, "This is about you, not someone else."
I paused. OK. The desires of my heart. I'll pray for those. Long pause. What might those be? It almost felt like I was speaking another language. My brain could not comprehend this string of words. Or maybe it was that my heart couldn't comprehend. I didn't journal much that day. I just sat with the fact that I didn't know the desires of my heart.
After a few days, I asked J whether he knew the desires of his heart. Without hesitation, he named two or three things. As he named each one, I nodded along and my heart stirred in recognition. Yes, I'd seen those desires in him. By the end of our conversation, he'd named roughly a half-dozen desires. I was tempted to ask J what he thinks the desires of my heart are. But that quiet voice reminded me that letting others define me was probably part of what got me here - here being a woman with nearly four decades lived and a heart seemingly empty of desire. Asking someone else the desires of my heart was not the way to go. I'd have to figure this out on my own.
I tried using collage to help me figure out the desires of my heart. Two things pretty quickly bubbled to the surface during that exercise. I want to write and I want to create. What I create doesn't always matter - collage is a current favorite, but I think the main thing is for me to use my hands to make something. Whether that thing is tomato tart, a card for a friend or a journal cover, the point is the creating. It satisfies me. The writing? I don't just mean this blog. My heart desires the writing of a book. And a little exploration of my heart let me see that I've bundled this desire up because it competes with another desire: my desire to homeschool - or do some form of work that is fulfilling.
I am not, and never have been, motivated well by money (much to the chagrin and bewilderment of a former boss). What does motivate me is sharing what I know, learning new and interesting things and seeing that my efforts directly benefit people. Homeschooling satisfies not only those desires, but a desire to know and understand my children well. I think my job as a parent is not to define who my children are, but to discover who they are and defend that to the world at large.
As I worked on my (still incomplete, unglued) collage, I got an image of the desires of my heart. They were in the back of the closet, wrapped in heavy canvas, crisscrossed with leather straps. With some prompting, I tried pulling those desires to the center of the closet, where I could see the package a bit more clearly. There are layers of desires here, that much is clear. How many - and how long they've been buried - I can't yet say. But I finally see that they are there.
Having seen that I have desires, I've begun to see that God has been fulfilling my desires even when I didn't know it. As I ran this morning, I realized this is one such desire. I am not a particularly talented or gifted runner - far from it. But it's the one form of exercise that feeds my body and soul. Running clears my mind, it promotes positive self-talk instead of negative and it makes me aware of my body. In the time after my leg surgery in 2010, I missed running. Not at first, of course. I could barely walk from one room to another. But the longing was there. I would see people running and my heart would ache. I know now that this ache was desire.
For part of this journey I've been on, I wondered whether I even had desires, so discovering that they exist - and I've buried them in canvas and straps - brought forth new questions. Why did I start hiding my desires in the closet in the first place? Are those first hidden desires still there? Why am I afraid of desiring? Do I think the disappointment will be too much for me? Do I fear conflict with J if our desires don't match? Am I afraid that knowing my desires and acknowledging them to myself will make me more attractive, more radiant? I'm still unpacking and attempting to answer some of these questions, so I don't have answers for you other than to say that I think the very fact that I am asking these particular questions indicates that many of the answers will be affirmative.
I finished a book today that was a perfect January companion. It was thought provoking, encouraging and challenging. It was the kind of book that makes you think about where you've been, where you are, where you're going. A chapter that I read today talked about desire lines. These are the paths you see that cut across the grass in a park. Not the nice, neat, orderly paved paths. These are the ones that show where people actually go. If I could look at my life up to this point, where would my desire lines point me? What have I been ambling toward, circling or walking through for years without seeing? Where have I been going?
Since this post has contained so many questions, let's end with a few. What are your desires? Do you know them well? Do you take them out of their containers every once and a while to polish them and then put them back on the shelf? Or do you carry them around in your pocket, on a piece of well-worn, oft-folded paper to remind you of who you are and what you want most?
Finally, my biggest question for both you and I: does knowing and pursuing the desires of our heart make us selfish? Or does it make us more fully who God made us to be?