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Who am I? What do I really long for in life? What is my heart’s deepest desire? How can I serve the world?
In discernment, paying attention to questions like these propels us along the path of self-knowledge and into the loving arms of God. Our deepest and truest desires come from God and help us to dedicate our entire selves to God in the fulfillment of our unique potential as human beings with a world to serve. Our desires are the power behind our actions.
An important spiritual exercise in discerning God’s call for your life is simply to begin to surface your heart’s most basic desires. Start with prayer. Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to discover your desires and to respond to them faithfully.
As you sit quietly in God’s presence, ask yourself again and again, “What do I really want right now?” As these wants emerge, you can then ask, “What desires are even underneath these desires?” Also, pay close attention to contradictory desires, which often cause inner conflict.
As you sift through and evaluate your desires, identify those desires that distract or divert you from your authentic direction in life. Likewise, identify those desires that are most important, most full of energy and represent your truest values.
In her book, The Way of Discernment, Elizabeth Liebert suggests that even before we can enter this kind of prayer that searches our heart’s desires, we need to believe that our individual desires are important and worthy of our consideration. If we are convinced that what we want is of no significance, that someone else must tell us what matters for our life, or that any desire that we have will surely go against what God desires, we are unlikely to trust our desires or even know what they are. If this is the case, we will never come to know who we truly are.1
Authentic discernment of God’s call in our life, therefore, requires self-respect and a deep listening to our heart’s desires, which will lead us more fully into God’s life and mission. Our heart’s desires reveal our vocation. As Frederick Buechner wrote, “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”2
What are the desires of your heart? What more would you like to do with your life? What is your deepest joy? What need in the world could you meet through an exercise of your gifts and talents for others?
1 Elizabeth Liebert, The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 26.
2 Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 95.
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