One bold question, four meditations: What do you desire?

What do you desire?

I observe that some people answer this question not with a ‘what’ but with a ‘whom’ or a combination of the two. “I want to marry Joe,” “I want Martha to quit nagging me,” and the like. Some of us want our ‘whom’ to start or stop being, doing, or having something that we do not approve of or enjoy.  We silently (or loudly) expect that as soon as our ‘whom’ alters his or her behavior, we will then have what desire: excitement, joy, peace, a home in the country, whatever. Unfortunately, it requires incredible energy to maintain the fantasy of complete control over others’ behavior.

If you allowed yourself to explore the possibility, might you be able to create the experience of ‘what’ you desire without having to rely entirely on your ‘whom’ changing in the way you prefer?

Some people have a ‘what’ that travels with plenty of baggage: ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ are the most common companions.  We can identify our desire for a loving life companion or exciting friendships…and we have helpfully provided God, the Universe, our friends and families with timetables and schedules for their proper execution.  You have decided you will make new friends at church, chapter meetings, and the gym—not in the supermarket, nightclub, or dry cleaners.  You have decided that you will not meet your life companion until you graduate, lose 20 pounds, move to Cleveland…or you’ve decided that your life companion must appear before you turn 30, buy a home, or make partner at your firm.

Are you so passionate about ‘what’ you desire that you don’t care about the package?

Or are you prepared to only experience ‘what’ you desire if it shows up ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’ you expect?

What do you desire?

Pull out your yearbook or your journal, call a friend, or just sit back and think of these two words:  middle school (junior high, for some of you).

Remember how you badly you desired the fashion of the day (boat shoes, orange Cross Colors jeans, Members Only jacket) and couldn’t ever imagine wanting anything else?

Your tastes, preferences, and standards in fashion have likely changed over the years. With luck, you’re able to acknowledge the change in your desires without calling the 1976/1986/1996 version of you tasteless, hopeless, or useless.

Remember the depth of your crush on Kim Fields, Donnie Wahlberg, Ralph Tresvant, George Michael, or Sally from around the corner?

Remember the hours you spent running drills (as you dreamed of the NFL), practicing your lines (as you dreamed of Broadway fame), or studying architecture (as you dreamed of joining the family firm)?

Some of us expect and welcome change in our wardrobes but not in our hearts.  We are often reluctant to admit that what we do desire isn’t what we once desired.

Are you allowed to admit that what you desired then—in a career, a friend, a life partner—may not be what you desire now?

Are you required to live out your dreams from ten, twenty, thirty years ago—or are you free to change your life to reflect your current desires?

What do you desire?

I’m asking you. Yes, you.

Wise, loving, and kind as they may be, I am not asking here about what your parents, lovers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, ancestors, teachers, professors, mentors, rabbis, deacons, Facebook friends, prayer partners, sorority sisters, running buddies, colleagues, girlfriends, God, bankers, political representatives, Presidents, creditors, debtors, trainers, physicians, or Board members desire.

I’m asking you.

With all those other voices in your head, do you recognize your own?

To what extent are your desires influenced, shaped, directed, guided by others’ desires?

Who cares—deeply—about what you desire?

If you have decided that what you desire is to fulfill someone else’s (Allah, your mother, Madison Avenue, Black liberation theology) desires for you, how do you organize your life around the discipleship or your choice?

What do you desire?

“It’s alright, I guess, for them to come along.”

“It’d be cool if we settled down, maybe got married.”

“I’m okay with having kids.”

Language is a powerful tool, able to create and reflect our internal worlds. Many of us shy away from the language of passion and desire.  As in the phrases above, we use passive, lukewarm, vague words as we speak about our lives and our choices.  If we choose to communicate this way, we risk conveying to others (or worse, convincing ourselves) that we are too sophisticated, spiritual, hardcore, masculine, worldly, suave, feminine, cynical, or embittered to admit desire.

If you do desire something, anything at all, what prevents you from communicating this clearly to yourself and important others? What inhibits you from clearly identifying what you want?

For others, the challenge is not communicating desire, but experiencing it.  From days to decades, some people exist in the land of “whatever”, unable to connect with any genuine energy or preference to journey in a particular direction. Desire does not have to be rigid, stagnant, and materialistic.  Like a river’s energy, desire can be harnessed as a powerful, motivating force that inspires us to flexible, joyful, and vibrant living.

If you don’t experience desire, what obstacles might be blocking your path to this energy?  What are the benefits and costs for continuing to desire nothing?

Consider this bold question an invitation to the frontier of your experience: What do you desire?

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