Back when I was in graduate theology studies, I prepared book manuscripts for the prolific Catholic writer and theologian Fr. John Dunne. He distinctively wrote of the urgency of “heart’s desire” to shape the spiritual journey.
Heart’s desire. Back then when I was dreaming of possibility for my life, this phrase ignited a small, steady flame within me. To find, and name, and actually live my heart’s desire became the worthy work.
I cannot say I immediately connected the vocational dots, but the Holy Spirit had quietly set something in motion.
As I continued my theology studies I dreamed of the particular kind of work I wanted to do. When the perfect opportunity went to someone else—someone who didn’t particularly want the assignment, my heart’s desire was crushed. I decided to get real, let go the dream, and find a job.
The human heart—that “interior self”—is an endlessly graced part of the human person. It is the dreaming place, the desiring place of the Holy Spirit, where the irrepressible longing for God grows from faint whisper to the compelling wind that hastens us to fulfill God’s willing in us.
The human heart, in short, is the interior place from which vocation springs. “Thinking” types as well as “feeling” types experience a certain stirring, a certain interior vocational knowing, which is in fact the stirring and knowing of the Holy Spirit. In baptism God places a total, inescapable, and utterly life-giving claim on every dimension of our being.
Recently this phrase returned to me: heart’s desire. Something of that hopeful spark of possibility came back to me. But I am now thirty-some years older, and the spark is different. The possibility is different. I am not now who I was then. Nor was I then who I am now.
I had to honestly ask myself: What is my heart’s desire? If I could distill it into one sentence, one phrase, what would it be?
A long pause ensued, about a two-day pause, as I wrestled with the question: What is my heart’s desire? “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer when it comes to vocational questions, because at some level we do know. So I had to alternately sit with, wrestle with, and pray into this unexpected invitation to name the unnamed desire within me.
I already live the life that has my name on it, doing the work that energizes and sustains me. What more could I want? A pile of money? Not really.
But on the third day I learned of an opportunity to spend a week in the company of a person whose work has had a huge influence on my own. Do you know what I did? I hit the Delete button, because I immediately told myself: I don’t have that kind of money, the money it would take for tuition, international travel, lodging. I do not even have the money it would take to apply for a passport.
And then I realized: I just deleted my heart’s desire and God’s lovely answer to my prayer.
The “yes buts” and the “also ands” had to sit down for some honest conversation on God’s willing, on unexpected (but not random) invitations, and on the nature of courageous response.
So I humbly went to the Delete box, retrieved the e-mail, and let it speak again—this time without my self-imposed restraints. As poet David Whyte once warned: “We are the one part of creation that can refuse to be itself.”
God’s dream for your life is the hardest dream to throw away. God does not plant impossible dreams. But God does plant vocational dreams that always will challenge you to go beyond what you deem possible.
I had to think, wrestle, and pray to name my heart’s desire. It may not be easy work, but it is absolutely necessary work.
What is your heart’s desire?
Copyright 2012 Mary Sharon Moore, M.T.S.