By the time February 14 rolls around, stores have been stocked for weeks with Valentine cards, bouquets of roses, boxes of chocolate, stuffed animals and heart-shaped balloons. Relentless advertisements insist that what makes a woman happy and lets her know that she is truly loved is a diamond ring or a pendant. Though there’s nothing wrong with giving or receiving a token of affection (who doesn’t love a box of chocolates?), it’s easy to get caught up in all the hype and miss a beautiful opportunity to really explore your own heart’s desire.
As I have done my own reflection, I was struck with how often the words “wish” and “want” bubbled up into my thoughts and prayers. They are closely connected but actually very distinct emotions. Wanting or real desire leads us into taking action while wishing either grows into wanting or it’s simply wistful and magical thinking. We can see from all the protests and changes in government during this turbulent past year that more and more people have moved from wishing to wanting things to change and are willing to invest the work it takes to bring their desires into fruition.
Personally, I have often thought, “I wish I knew what to do,” or, “I wish things were different.” But it was only when I deeply wanted something that I was willing to do the hard work (usually on myself) that it required. When I stopped wishing I knew what God was asking of me, and I really wanted to know, I realized I was and am in a whole different place of discernment. It requires that I become willing to be led rather than pushing my own (or someone else’s) agenda and that I can tell the difference. I have to spend time getting to know myself well, including all my shadows and egoistic trappings as well as recognizing what makes my heart sing and brings me deep joy.
It also requires that I be patient, both with myself and with God. Sometimes it’s a long process, and sometimes surprisingly not, but trusting that God knows well the plans God has in mind for you (Jeremiah 29: 11-14a) translates to trusting God to work in God’s time. Reflecting on how you have arrived at the place you are now will quickly reveal how God uses all for good when we let God. This prayer by Trappist monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968) says it all so well and inspires me to be patient and persistent:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
During this month dedicated to honoring love, I invite you to celebrate all the ways God has blessed you with people who love you and those whom you love, and to spend some time with God exploring your own heart’s true desire. Have a few chocolates while you’re at it!