O Lord, you know all my desires,
And my sighing is not hidden from you.
When my sister and I were growing up, we were convinced that my mother had eyes in the back of her head. Surreptitiously, we would be doing something that was not permitted, and she would call out, “Stop that,” though her back was turned. Sometimes she was even in another room, or downstairs while we were in our bedroom on the second floor.
Having raised two sons myself, I know that there is a kind of sixth sense in mothering—an awareness that things are too quiet, or that something is slightly askew in a room. I know that there is both consolation and accountability in being known.
Mom seemed to know our desires—both healthy and not so healthy. In some ways I sense that God is like that—all of my sighing and hoping and praying and desiring is known by this God “unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid.” (Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, p. 355)
When Susie and I got to the University of Texas at Austin and were suitemates in our dormitory, we used to laugh about hearing mom’s “Stop that” in our heads. We also discovered that she had nurtured some desires that were deep within us—desires to learn and to grow, to study and to explore, to enjoy friends and family, to offer something back to the world. Desires and sighing may point us in the way we are called to go.
St. Catherine of Siena is quoted as praying, “Fulfill in us the desires you place in our hearts.” Some of deepest desires are God-given. They come from our hearts, from the core of our being. Our desires are not (as some would have us believe) all bad.
Yearning and desire often lead us to the truest expression of the talents and capacities that God has given us for the life of the world. When we begin to discover those gifts along the way, we need friends and community to help us have the courage to risk offering whatever those gifts may be.
Yet before we can take the risk, we need to allow ourselves to recognize those desire that God has placed in our hearts. We need to notice our yearnings, even though they may seem odd or inconsequential. That first step of noticing, and then tending, may allow the desire to grow into something real and vital that embodied God’s own mercy in the world.
My sister got the medical gene that runs in my mother’s line. Mom tried to be a nurse, but she discovered quickly that she did not like blood. That did not stop her from encouraging Susie to become a nurse. Susie found herself drawn to oncology, and she has studied for certification as an oncology nurse.
She began following the desire that was placed in her heart. Now, every time she is in the hospital, others know mercy and humor, wisdom and consolation, because she recognized that her desire was also a calling. She honored the desire deep within, the desire God had given her, and took the risk to live that out.
Grant us the wisdom to recognize the desires you have planted within us, and the courage to live them out, for the life of your world. Amen.
Copyright ©2006 Mary C. Earle.