daily office meditation, January 14th: the desires of your heart

(to pray the daily office with us in its entirety, click here)

It seems like such a trope by now, somebody will surely say that I'd be better off to avoid it: "God will grant you the desires of your heart." Ooh, or better yet, Psalm 20.4 is rendered "grant you your heart's desire, and prosper all your plans." So now we get to add PROSPERITY on top of this. And the Psalmist won't stop prattling about such things. In our second Psalm for today, here it is one more time, for the people in the back: "You have given him your heart's desire, you have not denied him the request of his lips (Psalm 21.2)."

I know, it's fodder for televangelists, and magical thinking in which God becomes little more than a genie in the bottle here to fulfill our wishes. I hear the voice in my head, that says God is not interested in your happiness, God is interested in your holiness. I am aware that even when we are talking desires of the heart, that heart matters are tricky business, per Jeremiah 17.9, "The heart is deceitful above all things." My inner Hauerwas rightfully reminds me that the desires of American Christians are far too corrupted by dominant culture to be trusted, that they are the desires of a people who have not been habituated in the gospel. 

I hear truth in much of that, and yet feel like being a grace contrarian enough this morning, to put in a good word for desires. I am fully aware that there a lot of things that I want--that in fact advertisements have told me to want--that are not good for me. I am quite in touch with how much of my wanting is self-oriented, self-destructive, neither in the best interests of my neighbor nor even really my own life. I would even say I've never been more aware of these realities. I have spent plenty of time confused, in a forest of entangled wants. But I would also say, boldly and brashly, that these desires are not the desires at the bottom of me. That however deceitful my heart has been, it's a heart made in the image of God, even still, a heart that has dirt-floor longings for the things God wants for me. 

It's not that desires cannot be trusted--only the ones that are not in the depths of us. You have to get to the want underneath the want, the desire underneath the desire. This is my experience even praying through the daily office--it's not that God annihilates my desires and replaces them with new ones, per se, but that my heart is aligned with my own deepest, truest desires. These are desires that are intuitively in sync with the heart of God, desires not only for myself but for my neighbors, for the world that I live in. They are in there to be discovered, to be unearthed by prayer. My deepest desires, are always the ones that I can trust. My deepest desires, are the ones that never fail to lead me home.

So I'm reminding you today that happiness and holiness need not be mutually exclusive. In the ancient sense of the word, happiness is not a fleeting, temporal emotion (as I have often heard from pulpits) but a deep, abiding, full-soul kind of contentment, a kind of happiness that is in fact good and right to pursue.  Remember what we read yesterday, "In your right hand, are pleasures forevermore."  Even if we need to re-align some of our wants, I'm not willing to yet give up hope just yet, on our desires. 

Ultimately, while discerning our own hearts will put us on track to discover our deepest desires, the trust isn't in the goodness of our hearts at all, but the heart of God.  It is an aching, abundant heart, endlessly moved to please, fulfill and satiate the most raw and real needs of God's sons and daughters. The deep, unwaivering goodness of the heart of God cannot be taught, it can only be revealed. Thus my prayer for you is the prayer of Paul for his friends at Ephesus, also from our reading today: "I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."  

It is an un-knowable thing, but I pray that you may know it by the revelation of the Spirit. And I pray that you will buy no lesser gospel, that sanctifies, glorifies, or elevates emptiness for emptiness' sake, when the God who hovers over you now actively longs to make you full.