Philip Sheldrake says, “Desires are best understood as our most honest experiences of ourselves, in all our complexity and depth, as we relate to people and things around us…In particular, we need to rescue ‘desire’ from attempts to reduce its meaning to sexual libido and its increasingly murky associations with sexual abuse or sexual power games…When we choose to talk of befriending desires rather than simply responding to needs, we are implying that desires involve a positive and active reaching out to something or someone. Such a movement goes beyond our temporary reactions to immediate circumstances and actually touches on deeper questions of our identity and our ideals” (Befriending Our Desires, pg. 4). We must befriend our desires; welcome them as good, laying aside old, debilitating concepts of desire. We must accept them as life-giving, transformative, hope builders. As Sheldrake said this goes beyond our reaction to “immediate circumstances and actually touches on deeper questions of our identity and our ideals.” In my own life, I had pushed away the Godly desires I sensed. I shrugged off its mantle of love - both agape and eros love - and replaced it with a stifling, stagnating counterfeit cloak so that others would be pleased. Every day I died inside, hurting, yet hungering for true expression of who I really and truly was. I have not yet arrived but I am at a far better, more fulfilled place than I once was.
“Duty, faithfulness to the expectations of others, or self-denial in an almost literal sense of denying one’s personality and tastes all too easily became the criteria for spiritual progress…Desire also suggests passion, yet ‘a person of good judgment’ was often thought to be cool and objective. As a result, it seemed that it is not so much desire that should guide our choices but a cultivated detachment from any strong (and implicitly unreliable) feelings” (Sheldrake, BOD, pg. 8). As far as duty is concerned, obligation does not have to do with desire, but with love. John says in I John 4:11, The Passion Translation, “Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then ‘loving one another’ should be our way of life.” In the original Greek, the word often translated as “ought” actually means “obligation,” or as seen here, “should be our way of life.” The only obligation we owe anyone is to love others unconditionally with a God given, God inspired love. It is time to embrace our desire, welcome it. We can no longer treat it as an enemy, or as distasteful and bad for others and ourselves. As we do, we just might find we are more passionate, more compassionate and more loving than ever before.
Now don’t get me wrong here, because I am not saying that we should not be on guard against the things that can trip us up, those wrong desires that come our way to distract us from the things of God. What I am saying is this – yield every desire – all of them – to God, and He will give back to you the ones that are in line with His purposes and design for you. I would like to leave you with two blessings from John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us that address two of our deepest desires – our longing and our belonging. May you find understanding, vision, courage, strength, and most of all your God-given desires stirring within your heart, fresh and new, burning like a fire with passion and love to be expressed to bless the lives of others.
For Longing (To Bless the Space Between Us – pgs. 35-36)
Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
May the forms of your belonging – in love, creativity, and friendship –
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.
May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.
For Belonging (To Bless the Space Between Us – pg. 44)
May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart.
May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.
May the sanctuary of your soul never become haunted.
May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible word to gather you, mind you, and embrace you in belonging.