Early in our marriage, it was evident that I am future-oriented, while my husband is more naturally able to focus on the present and not worry as much. I have had to learn to recognize that worry to trust is a continuum and to intentionally work on shifting towards trust, which supports living in the present. I have also recognized how discerning a potential shift or goal has the capacity to occupy a lot of space, carrying a heavy cognitive load that can be an obstacle to entering deeply into the present. Gratitude can support combatting an unhealthy emphasis on what is lacking or not yet realized in life.
Nonetheless, paying attention to our desires is an important mechanism for growth. Inviting God to delve deep into our desires with us and to purify them supports progress with the universal call to holiness. The following are some recommendations to process through desires with a lens of Christ-centered growth.
The first step is to recognize and acknowledge what the underlying desires are in our lives. We can take stock of which patterns of thought arise as we go about our daily lives that indicate what we are longing for on the surface.
Next, we can dig deeper into why. Doing so during Adoration, before the tabernacle, or while praying through scripture can be especially powerful. We can consider: What about that desire are we specifically longing for? What are we really longing for if we look beneath the surface? How do those desires align (or not) with what Jesus wants to offer us – an abundant life? Do we even really want what the initial longing pointed toward?
Practicing Gratitude and Surrendering
As we explore and discover the roots of our desires, it is important to acknowledge what is already in place in our lives that aligns and to recognize the foundation in place for continual growth. Inherent in the process of considering what is established is the recognition of what is not yet in place. Those spaces of gaps between vision and reality are challenging and can breed discontent. Yet, they are also opportunities to consider growth while surrendering with a Thy will be done heart. It is important to avoid getting too attached to actualizing a specific desire-related goal and to instead engage in on-going reflection and conversation with God.
Approaching the growth process with gratitude and surrender nurtures being able to approach the process as an adventure, allowing God to surprise us along the way as it unfolds, rather than unnecessary pressure to get it right. We can learn to delight in the process of making steps along the way to what we perceive in prayer as being natural next steps, knowing that the outcome we anticipate as being a logical fruit of the step may or may not come to fruition. Rather than desiring an assurance of the result, we can shift our thinking towards confidence in God’s providence – His ability to lead, teach, and provide.
Although it is natural to desire or expect a straight, linear, visible growth pattern, often it is more typical that the process is messy with a lot of work occurring almost imperceptibly under the surface. As a result, sometimes it takes the passage of time to realize the journey of growth that prayerfully pondering desires and considering implications took us on.
Within the context of our family, we depend on my income, so throughout the years there has been a tension of how to navigate needing to work while also having the desire to focus more fully on my family. I have considered the beauty of being a stay-at-home mom, including the choice of some to homeschool their children, trying to reconcile how those desires fit the reality of our family’s circumstances. The pandemic context has led me on a journey to enter more deeply into my vocation as a wife and mom and the life of our home. It has opened me up to realize a greater capacity for flexibility than I had previously acknowledged.
The prolonged nature of the pandemic has created space to process through challenges inherent and to dream with Jesus about what He envisions for our family, including whether it would be possible for our family to figure out a way to not have daycare and to homeschool my younger girls while still needing to work full time. It has entailed a lot of awareness of how I was becoming attached to certain outcomes I was desiring, which prompted me to better surrender and stop trying to control or force a certain pathway.
Having loved puzzles since my childhood, I embrace problem-solving and persevering to consider how to make different pieces fit together. Nonetheless, it can also be exhausting to constantly cycle through the process of analyzing, considering possibilities, making attempts, and discerning implications based on the on-going results as the process unfolds. God has been leading me on a journey to better surrender and enter into the present moment, alleviating the adverse impact of an over preoccupation of the future – even when it is excitement about the possibilities. Along the way, prayer has helped me to recognize the desires and then dig deep to the roots of why my mom heart longs to enter more profoundly into my vocation, being able to more comprehensively nurture my husband and girls.
As I have recognized my own limitations and how certain pieces do not yet seem sustainable or healthy for my family to try to do it all, I have sought to be grateful for what our lives do afford and the blessings that are inherent in the unique pathway of our family. I consider small steps to align to the longings, even though I cannot fully enact everything. This prompts an on-going process of prayerfully cycling through noticing desires, digging deeper, practicing gratitude, and considering implications. One turning point was considering what matters most to me related to how I want to love and nurture my family, regardless of whether or not we utilize daycare and/or public school. I considered what it would look like in our daily lives. Then, I prioritized among those concepts in order to consider one next step with a vision of others to layer in over time when possible. This alleviated pressure by feeling less overwhelming.
Another example is related to our home. When my husband and I had our current home built, we envisioned it as a home to live in for the rest of our lives (or until we could no longer live independently). When we announced to my sister that I was pregnant last summer – officially doubling the amount of kids that we had when we moved into our house – she asked if we had outgrown our home. “No, just our van,” I said with a laugh. Yet, when I recently participated in an online webinar focusing on visions for the future in different areas of life, one layer that stood out to me was envisioning an ideal home for this season of our lives. I thought about how not too long prior I had a sense of longing when I dropped a daughter off at one of her friend’s in a neighborhood that was tucked away. I hadn’t even realized it existed. Then I saw the space of the lots and the large wrap around porch. Though it was exciting to think about possibilities and whether we should be considering a transition, I was torn as to whether this dreaming was productive since so much of my personal growth lately has led me towards focusing on gratitude with what I have, rather than spending too much time thinking about what I want that I don’t have.
Last week I was listing out what I would want if we were to switch to a new home. I looked at Zillow just to see what is currently available in our community. However, then I was drawn to put check marks next to everything that we already have in our current house. I thought about what did not align and why I longed for those aspects. For example, desiring a porch and a bigger yard were features in previous homes we lived in, so I considered what it was about those that I loved so much. Then, I considered how I could maximize time and space in the yard that I already have, rather than longing for a different yard.
When thinking about how our current home can meet the needs of our family, as well as where to focus my energy and attention linked to the example of processing through care and schooling of our children, I recently wrote a reminder for myself, “My time and space are flexible and are meant to be used creatively. Learning to use them well is a process. God will direct me on how to shape my days and spaces for different seasons of life. I can approach the process with an adventurous heart and peaceful disposition.”
I am intentionally choosing to notice when I have a longing but then invest in aligning to that within the context of my current context and circumstances as I wait to see how the bigger picture will unfold. Doing so will help me to be grateful for what I have in the moment, and if the fuller concept of what I originally envisioned is meant to become actualized, the small changes that I make in the present will prepare me to be better positioned to receive those gifts well. If it is not in the works I will still be making steps towards the longings of my heart within my reality and surrendering the gaps.
Questions to Take to Prayer when Processing through Longings
- What do you notice yourself longing for in your day to day life? Which patterns emerge?
- When you consider those ideas in prayer, what seems to be at the root of those desires? In other words, what do you truly desire?
- What would you want regardless of how certain circumstances unfold?
- What do those desires reveal about what matters and what to prioritize?
- In what capacity is it possible to enact those desires with what you already have?
- Why aren’t you already enacting what is possible?
- What foundation is already there?
- What are next steps and further down the road steps?
Prayer for Christ-Centered Growth
Loving Lord, Prince of Peace, you desire a life of abundance and joy for me. Sometimes I chase after surface level desires. Help me to remember to pray through these desires with You in order to get at the roots of what I am truly longing for. You want to nurture me with Your love and then allow that to overflow. You want me to experience your peace that will transcend any life circumstance and to help me to worship, love, and serve well. Lead me, Lord. Create in me a pure heart, conformed to Your most Sacred Heart. Help me to embrace the adventure of growth that You desire for me. Christ, be my light!
Copyright 2021 Amanda Villagómez // Photo by Kevin Young on Unsplash