Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Seeking Your Heart's Desire

During my drive to the parish for an early morning Eucharist, I realized that I would be free later in the morning to attend the clergy day at the cathedral. I had previously planned on missing it due to things that needed attention at the parish, but the list of "must dos" had somehow evaporated during the previous 24 hours. So I made a pilgrimage to Trenton. I'm glad I did.

Our quiet day was led by Margaret Bullit-Jonas, a priest and writer from Amherst, Massachusetts who has taught courses on prayer at the Episcopal Divinity School since 1992 and has previously served as chaplain to the House of Bishops. The theme of her meditations was "Lent and the Longing for God." The easiest way to summarize the content of her meditations is to offer a quote from her book, Holy Hunger;

...I used to think that a saint was someone who had no desires. Now I know otherwise. A saint is someone who knows what he or she most deeply desires and, if need be, can let everything else go. By either definition, I'm no saint. Often I lose touch with what I really long for. I find myself kidnapped again by lesser desires, smaller wants. But at least I can trust now that listening to my deepest desires is a worthy enterprise, even a holy one...
I've explored this theme before here at Jake's place, but have been neglecting this perspective lately. Today I found looking within for my heart's desire to be a refreshing, as well as insightful, exercise.

Here are some of the questions we wrestled with during our last thirty minutes of quiet time. I hope you find them as helpful in sorting out your priorities as I did;

If today were the last day of your life, what would you want more than anything else to do?

If you were on your deathbed, looking back over your life, how would you want the world to have been blessed by your having been here?

Someone once said, "May you live until the word of your life has been expressed." What is the "word" you want your life to express?

If God were to whisper in your ear, This is why I sent you here. This is what I sent you to do," What would God say next? Find out.
Margaret also shared a well known saying that I had never heard before; "The two most important days of your life were the day you were born and the day you knew why."

The day was a blessing to me. Some of my answers to the above questions are still percolating to the surface. Right now my desire is to simply pass on a bit of the blessing.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don't let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

- Rainier Maria Rilke, Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. Anita Burrows and Joanna Macy.

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