January 2010

What Do I Want?

“What do you want for Christmas?”  Nora asks me.  So do my children, and an array of other kith and kin.  What do I want for Christmas?  I struggle to answer that for my loved ones.  They want to know because they love me and they want to show it by giving me things that I would want and enjoy.  The problem for me is that my “wanting”, and certainly my “needing”, have greatly diminished over the years.  Life has been good to me.  God has been good to me.  So many wonderful people have been good to me.  My needs are met and exceeded.  My material wants grow simpler every year.  So how do I answer this question?  How do I provide an answer that leads to a gift that can be wrapped and placed under a Christmas tree?

I don’t usually have an answer ready that satisfies the person asking me.  I feel like one of those people in a beauty pageant answering a similar question from the emcee with: “I want world peace.”  I have tried suggesting that a donation to a worthy cause would be a great Christmas present.  The usual response acknowledges that as a nice idea, but the person asking insists there must be something physical to be unwrapped on Christmas morning.  But how many more socks or ties or hankies do I really need?

Now that Christmas is behind us, we face another version of the same question: “What do I want for the New Year?”  This is the question that lies underneath the impulse to make our New Year’s resolutions.  I may resolve to diet, or to exercise, because what I want is a slimmer, trimmer me.  The resolution is intended to take me where I want to go, get me what I want to have (or be).  But is it what I really want?  This is a tougher question that might at first appear.  It turns out to have many layers, like an onion.  Peel away one layer and you find another beneath it.  I resolve to lose weight.  Why, because I want to be thinner and feel more attractive?  For whom?  Why?

“What do I want?”  I remember my therapist asking me this question.  I went to a therapist to deal with issues and conflicts in my life.  It seemed clear enough to me what I wanted.  But he was relentless.  I could give an answer, and we’d work with that answer for a few sessions (or a lot of sessions!).  Eventually he’d come back to it again, “What do you want?”  Over time, I came to see that I often don’t know what I want, what I really want.  Therapy felt like snorkeling, holding my breath and diving down to see what was there within me.  It was hard to stay down for long, and I would come up gasping for breath!  With time I could stay down longer.  To stretch the metaphor, I think I learned in time how to scuba dive.

It came as some surprise to me that the nun to whom I went for spiritual direction also asked this same question.  Month after month she would gently guide me back to this terrain in my prayer.  She invited me into the presence of God.  She helped me give voice to my “wants”.  Naming them over time took me deeper into my own soul.  What do I want?  What do I really want?  When all is said and done, when it is all over, what will have really mattered.  The more I attempted to answer the question and put it to God, again the simpler my request became.  My prayer became quieter, gentler, less anxious.  I found myself spending more time thanking God.  I found mysefl wondering about, and trying to listen for, what God wants.

That’s what I want for this New Year.  I want to want what God wants.  Not so easy, and there are dangerous pitfalls in thinking that one knows what God wants.  Probably the best I can do is to want to want what God wants.  I think that will be my New Year’s prayer, “God of grace and wisdom, draw my heart into Yours and help me with humility to want to want what You want.  Amen.”

Comments

"What do I Want?"

When I first read the above column I thought yes, this is really thought provoking. A few days later, I reread it and thought gee, what a lot of questions. The third reading took me on a journey through my life as I thought of the many times that I could not answer the very same question. The more I thought about it the more I realized that my material wants had never been very strong. As a young child all I really wanted was to create, listen to music and read. So if I wanted anything it was materials to create with, books and records. Looking back, I can see that many of my wants were spiritual in essence, although I of course, did not know that then. Books and music have the ablilty to transport one to spiritual realms, while creativity comes from God, since she is the creator of all.As I grew older my thirst for knowledge became unquenchable as I thought this was the key to understanding what life was all about. And so I spent many years in exploration. Then I remember going through a whole decade of wanting to go "home". "Where is home" my friend Brian would ask, and I would always answer, "I dunno" and I really didn't know, but the longing would not cease. And so it went decade after decade.

When I finally "met" God a few years ago through being given wisdom and lovingkindness,and through a mystical experience I thought my heart would burst with joy as I came to understand that this was what I had always wanted , looked for , chased through all the ups and down of my life. All I had really wanted all this time was to grow and live in God's love.

Now my wants have become a prayer as I ask for the wisdom and love to see and to know the reality of God in me and in all of life. And, my gratitude continues to grow as I "meet" God over and over again in so many blessings through others.

RAA

Wanting what God wants

I have recently been reading a book "Praying to Change Your Life" by Suzette Caldwell. She describes a tug of war with two teams pulling in opposite directions. This is quite frankly what our life can be with God. When we are trying to pull Him our way and the tension in the rope is so tight that it feels like it is about to snap.

I read in Norman Vincent Peale's the Power of Positive Thinking about how we need to partner with God to see what we desire out of life. However, the truth is that we want our will in our life and we quite often try to pull God in our direction. I have been reflecting on my prayer life and I must confess, it has been quite selfish. I have studied prayer and learned to pray God's Word and I often to pray for others. Nonetheless, these prayers can be selfish.

For example, I have been living home with my parents for almost two years. I try to thank God for a roof over my head and to be happy, but the living arrangement saddens me. This is especially true since I used to own my own apartment in Manhattan and now I am living out in the suburbs of Long Island in the home I grew up in.

I really want to move out. I believe a large part of my prayer life is based on how I can get out of here. I pray for new deals, promotion, customers, favor and whatever it takes to get me out of here. I can not imagine that my living here could be God's will. In fact, while my parents enjoyed me living here for awhile, recently I feel that I am dishonoring them because I do not pay rent. This would appear to against God's will.

I pray God's Will and I will pray different scriptures over the situation, but in my heart I want out. I do not think if God told me he wanted me to stay here I would believe it. So I guess I am struggling with surrending the living situation to Him. While this may very well be working out for my good it has been a long time.

So wanting want God wants is a great prayer and New Years resolution. Seek His face not his hand. See Him and not the blessing. Cast you care on Him and He will sustain you. But the issue is how?? He know our heart and when we really surrender.

I know the Word .. But I want out!!! I am in emotional distress and I can not take it anymore. That is what I think. But God's Word says I can do all things through Christ that gives me strength. I used to think that this scripture meant I can move mountains with God. Now I believe, looking at the context of Phillipians 4:13, that I can get through I tough time with Christ that previously would have devasted me. It means that I have enough love in my heart and humility to live with my parent and accept my situation (even though I have an MBA from Wharton and I used to have a nice job on Wall Street) and somehow believe that God loves me and has my best interest at heart.

Joseph

Write to me

Joseph, thank you for sharing your thoughts and exprience with such honesty.  I will include you in my prayers.  I apologize that it took so long to get the comments posted to our blog.  We had revamped the website and there was a glitch in the programming that we didn't know about until our second commenter called to ask about her comment not being posted.  Also, my secretary tells me that she thinks you may have sent me an e-mail at our church address and that she deleted it as suspicious. She apologizes.  Can you write to me again at my address:  rdwilliams@optonline.net.  Rob