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Desire and Discernment

Desire and Discernment

Desire. Discernment.

I’ve been thinking about how these two things intersect with one another. Desire and discernment.

There are two opposing ways that desire comes into play where discernment is concerned. One is about what we think we want. And one is about what our Deepest, Wisest self is offering.

The first way that desire comes into play is when we have a preconceived notion of what it is we want. Going into a discernment process, it is super important that we maintain an open mind. Otherwise, why go into discernment at all? Why not just go with our first idea and leap before we look?

One reason to go into discernment is that we’re often choosing among goods—among more than one reasonable option. Or we might be choosing among two or more painful options. Moving away from a beloved home to one of two far-away cities, for example. Each choice feels difficult, but we believe that we have to choose one. We may feel as though we have no choice, but as a wise person once said of these sorts of situations, “You have choices. They just all suck.”

dirt road through a forested way list by sunlight coming through the canopy

Sometimes the process of discernment can reveal another way, one that doesn’t “suck” so badly. And sometimes discernment will indeed confirm that first idea you had, that first thing you thought you wanted so much.


But a lot of the time, it won’t. Much of the time, new options will emerge, or an option you thought was not really worth your time appears to have new benefits, ones you hadn’t considered.

The other way desire intersects with discernment is super important. SUPER important.

According to the Jesuits, and perhaps to Ignatius of Loyola himself (the Jesuits’ founder), “The will of God is written in the deepest desires of our hearts.”

What does that mean?

I don’t tend to use language like, “will of God,” but I do use language about “alignment,”

“attunement,” and “harmony.”  Alignment with the River. Attunement with the Divine. Harmony with the Song of the Universe. Those are the kinds of things I might say.

But some people might assert that it comes down to the same thing, and that’s fine.

The point is that the right choice for us, the choice that will be confirmed once we make it, the choice that will ultimately feel peaceful and clear is the choice that aligns as much as possible with our DEEPEST desires. What is written in our heart.

river with autumn sunsetThe process of formal discernment is a process of finding the communication, the voice, if you will, of your own deep wisdom. For some people, they are clear that that wisdom comes from the Divine.

For others, it is simply their own deep, still lake from which emerges discernment, peace, wisdom, love, and all other virtues. For others it is the River with which they want to be aligned so they may be carried along with the energy of the Universe.

Desire is a good thing.

Desire is a powerful thing.

The question is, What do you most truly desire.

I was so sure I wanted to be a congregational minister. I loved being a lay leader, and I thought that meant congregational ministry was the way for me.

But many months and years after I entered seminary, it became clear that congregational ministry was not for me. I was kind of shocked, honestly. Things in the Universe of opportunities and possibilities lined up in such a way that it became clear that door was not the door for me.

And so now I’m in service through The Way of the River. And I love it. I have to say, I love almost every moment of it. I love writing to you. I love writing Reflections .(which you really all should sign up for, you know. J ) I even loved making my very first Facebook Live video. (If you go to the Way of the River Facebook page, you’ll be able to see a bunch over the next few weeks, assuming I don’t lose my nerve!)

I love love love meeting one-on-on with you in spiritual direction. I love having you in classes with me. I so love the profoundly deep experiences we have in our day-long retreats. I love it.

So it all shifted and changed and I let it happen because I knew I was being “tuned,” being in harmony with the song of the stars by doing, as Howard Thurman said, what bring me more alive.

orange sunflower lying on wooden boardsWhat brings you more alive? Do you know, on the surface of things? Do you know? Or do you need to take some time and work it out. If you haven’t signed up yet, and you want to experience the Day of Discernment, go to The Way of the River and sign up! If you are already a Reflections subscriber and you no longer have the link, just shoot me an email and I’ll send you the home link for Days of Discernment.

Let us love our desires! Let us feel them deeply, powerfully, in all the clarity they can bring! In all the fire of their passion! In all their ebbs and flows! In the grounding they can eventually provide.

Let us love them, know them, and find the wisdom of their depths.

Blessed be.

One Response

  1. Yes! to discerning, knowing and loving our truest, deepest desires, Catharine.

    I love your capacity to draw connections between various ways of expressing this. For me, “the way of the river” is especially resonate.

    Taoism is at the heart of my spiritual practice and of how I see the earthly unfoldings of my life and path. This “water course way” sometimes leads me to places I didn’t know I desired at all…but which are exactly what my heart and spirit were seeking. My foray into teaching Chinese Medicine this summer (and beyond) is precisely that.

    Thank you for further insight and inspiration!

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