This post is based on Week Two of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
When I got to the second week of my Ignatian Prayer Adventure, I was struck by the seventh day’s question: “What are you looking for?” As soon as I read this I thought about a Jesuit who told me that there were always three questions asked on an Ignatian retreat. The first question starts off simple: What do you want?
The second question then goes just a little bit deeper: What do you really want?
And the third question digs deep into the human heart: What do you really, really want?
He continued and told me that our deepest desires were God’s desires. When I first heard this I made a weird face and thought, “Are you crazy?” I was raised and taught that being a man of faith was to believe the opposite. I was taught that my desires were of the world and not of God. Desires were a bad thing.
However, while this idea might have seemed questionable (pun intended), it ended up being one of the most life-giving insights in my adult faith life.
Even when we entertain our most surface-level desires—something like wanting to be filthy rich—often times the desire goes much deeper than that. What do you really want? After being challenged to go deeper, that person might respond with, “I just want enough money for my family to live comfortably.” And going even deeper, the person might discover that they want simply, “to provide for my family,” or, “love my spouse the best I can.” All of a sudden—after some deep questioning—the desire becomes quite different. It becomes holy.
God meets us in our desires and helps us to sort through the junk. It’s up to us to do the hard work of discerning the desire behind the desire. When we let God in and ask, “What do I really, really want?” it’s then that we can discover that our deepest longings are not only holy—but are God’s desires for us.
Fr. James Martin writes about this with a profound simplicity:
The deep longings of our hearts are our holy desires. Not only desires for physical healing, but also the desires for change, for growth, for a fuller life. Our deepest desires, those desires that lead us to become who we are, are God’s desires for us. They are ways that God speaks to you directly.
So why is it important to ask these questions? Because the deepest desires of our hearts—the ones that go beyond our everyday drama, selfishness, and people-pleasing—are indeed, the desires of God.
So what is it that I am looking for? What do I want? Well, just like most everyone else, I want to be rich. And I guess, just like everyone else, I have got some work to do.