I stood on the narrow strip of land that connects Mont Saint- Michel to the rest of Normandy. The sky was ominous, and the day was cold and windy, but I was the happiest I had been in ages. What am I doing here? I wondered to myself. The only answer that made sense was a strange snippet of ancient Hebrew poetry:
“Before I realized it, my desire set me among the royal chariots of my people”. Song of Songs 6:12
I say it “made sense”, but of course it didn’t. It makes no sense at all to claim that desire alone can physically transport a person. Yet a handful of times in my life I have found myself in a place and known that desire got me there. I’m not talking about an out of body experience. In every case I arrived physically through a combination of airplanes, trains, cars, and buses. And lots of walking. It wasn’t the instantaneous process the speaker in Song of Songs seems to suggest. But when she says “…my desire set me…” I relate to that very strongly. Because in that handful of cases, even though I could recount the series of physical events that led to my arrival at a place, I couldn’t really explain them. Some part of the How? or the Why? was missing. Unless you account for desire.
So you’re probably thinking to yourself, “So you wanted to go there and you went. What’s the big deal?” We’ve all had experiences where we want to go someplace and it doesn’t work out. My wanting something doesn’t make it happen. But sometimes the Mover of Mountains and Shaper of Destinies does seem to respond to our desires. I don’t know why. I can’t explain why He made my will (and yours) the second most powerful force in the universe. But He did. In some cases, He’s even responded to my desire “before I realized it”. That’s why its so important that we pay attention to our desires. They don’t shape reality on their own, but they give us powerful clues about a reality we might not otherwise be aware of.
Last week I didn’t write my weekly blog post because I was in Italy. I’ve been there many times, but this trip was the one that probably made the least sense. Unlike other times, I had no family, friends, studies, or employment waiting for me there, and yet it wasn’t a vacation. While I was there I taught, learned from, and prayed with believers from 9 other countries. Many of them asked me why I was there. I mumbled something about an answer to prayer in my best Italian, but I wasn’t really honest with them. If I had told the full truth, I would have said, “My desire set me here”.
As I write this, I’m distracted by screaming preschoolers. My life is not a series of idyllic jaunts through the Mediterranean, but it is a journey of desire. I came home to a refrigerator full of mold and an unpaid garbage bill. But my desire still matters. And so does yours. Ask yourself, What do I desire more than anything else? Where do you think that desire comes from?