Like you, I’ve spent my years here on earth trying to figure out what life is all about. You will be thrilled to know I’ve finally got it, and I’m going to share it with you. Here it is: you get what you truly want.
Now, before you protest that you are getting very little of what you want, hear me out. It’s about our heart’s true desire. Very few of us know what we really want, especially in this era of strident, competing voices telling us what we need to make us happier: more money, more things, more youth or beauty, more fun, more technology, more . . . more . . . more. I am not suggesting that a minimalist lifestyle will still all the voices, though it may help. I am inviting you to question — constantly — if the way you are living is getting you what you truly want. This requires a lot of deep inner exploration, a lot of focused quiet time, a whole lot of honesty.
To compound the difficulty, we who trust our religion to guide us, have to also confront a whole lot of “you should wants” in our quest to find our heart’s true desire. “You should want” to serve more, believe more, learn more, do more, be more. And it’s not even couched that way; what you want is simply assumed. If you ever have that niggling feeling that you are an imposter in a pew, you are not alone.
Here’s the problem: we tend to believe that to become a better person, to have our righteous desires fulfilled, the only way to do it is by strict discipline, by “overcoming”, by striving and willpower. I’ve tried this — numerous times. I have failed every time. You?
What if, instead of pushing against our “evil” nature, we do more leaning into our divine nature? More exploring our deep desire for connection, growth, service, peace, joy? Or more investigation into the level of our desire, “. . . even if you can no more than desire to believe . . .” as Alma advises? What if we shake off the reins of restraint and run free? What if we really live our heart’s true desire?
I know what you’ll say: I’d just sleep in every day. I’d play video games at work all day. I’d overeat and underperform, I’d never do anything useful or satisfying. But is that really true? Maybe, for a while. On an institutional level, I believe that is the main focus of the church — to keep us from going completely bonkers as “natural” men and women. So instead of “shake off the reins of restraint and run free” we hear “don’t do this, do do that, stay away from the edge, be safe.” And as children, this is exactly what we need — strict boundaries, clear instructions. Until we grow up.
As adults, we build upon the foundation of rules we learn as children. That early strict discipline is critical to our spiritual success as we mature. Just like an accomplished musician or writer, you cannot be a great artist until you have mastered the rules of your art. But nor can you be a great artist until you are willing to “break” those same rules. And in our spiritual life, that can feel very risky. The one great spiritual rule that circumscribes them all is, as Jesus quite plainly taught, “Love God whole-heartedly. And love one another the same way.” When your desire to know and love God with your whole heart and soul and mind and strength is deeper than any other desire (and all other desires are of the ego, not the spirit) then you are completely willing to say Yes to anything God commands, even when the command is against the rules. “Sacrifice your child of promise.” “Cut off Laban’s head.” “Marry more women.”
Growing into this level of divine desire is the work of a focused lifetime, maybe more. But even the desire to Desire is powerful enough to move us into the realm of transformation. It’s a choice at every step of the way: how much do I want this? How deep is my desire to know God? How fully am I committed to developing the divinity in me? What at first feels like great sacrifice evolves into unstoppable love and perfect faith, as we lean into the sacred desires of our eternal spirit. It’s worth asking, every day. . .
What do you truly want?