During my retreat last week, I meditated upon and ended up memorizing the following portion of a poem called, “All Desires Are Known,” by Walter Brueggemann in his book, Prayers for a Privileged People. Maybe it will encourage others of you as it has me.
We spend our energy managing our desires,
waiting on them
investing in them
trying to hide them.
But you know,
and you know by your presence how to change our desires,
because in your presence,
our desires lose their power
as we receive again your look of love,
your powerful embrace,
your steady summons,
and then we know our desires
are all too self-indulgent,
interrupted by the precious Psalmist,
“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth
I desire other than you.
You have made us to desire only you,
you, our beginning and our end,
you, our food and our rest,
you, our joy and our peace.
Turn us from our desires that obsess us.
Unburden us that we may know
our true desire and end in communion with you,
you, who desire us as companion and lover.
Disappointment or fear of disappointment really squelches desire! As I am preparing to teach on silence and solitude, I have been skimming through Ruth Barton’s Silence and Solitude. In the following passage, she talks about the importance of acknowledging our desires. For a long time, I was afraid to look within, not sure what I would find. Maybe I was afraid to be alive? Silence and solitude are now an important part of my journey and within these practices, I have found the truth of the following words. Enjoy.
“Many of us are not very good at acknowledging our desire. As Christians we tend to be skeptical and suspicious of desire, for it is easily controlled; experience tells us that desire can be like a quiet little campfire that sparks a forest fire engulfing the whole forest. What if I let myself feel my desire and it gets out of control? What if I begin to desire things I can’t have? How do I live with the pain of unfulfilled desire?
Depending on our experience of wanting things and then receiving them, or not, we may harbor deep-seated fear that we will not get what our heart desperately wants. It can be frightening to allow ourselves to want something we’re not sure we can have, especially if it is something as essential as the presence of God in our lives. In many of us, the fear of not getting what our heart longs for has led us to develop an unconscious patter of distancing ourselves from our desire in order to avoid the pain of its lack of fulfillment.
But the truth is that desire is the life-blood surging through the heart of the spiritual life. You may not realize it but your desire for God is the truest and most essential thing about you. It is truer than your sin, it is truer than your woundedness, it is truer than your net worth, your marital status or any role or responsibility you hold. Your desire for God and your capacity to connect with God as a human soul is the essence of who you are.
Right in the very center of our desire for God is God’s desire for us, pulsating with love and longing. When we feel our desire, we are actually responding to God, because he has already initiated with us.” 50-51