Thinking about this month’s theme of desire, I pulled The Journey of Desire by John Eldredge off our bookshelf. I flipped through its well-worn pages, full of highlights and notes scrawled in the margins, evidence that I had once spent a lot of time with this book when we studied it in our small group.
I shook my head as I remembered what felt like another lifetime ago, my handwritten questions reminding me that faith develops and changes over time, just as the rest of my self has. The woman I glimpsed in those pages was still uncomfortable with the word desire, but curious enough to at least begin talking about it intellectually.
Another memory popped up as I read Eldredge’s words about Jesus’ provocative and consistent pattern of engaging people through their desire.
“Ask, seek, knock – these words invite and arouse desire. What is it that you want? They fall on deaf ears if there is nothing you want, nothing you’re looking for, nothing you’re hungry enough to bang on a door over” (38).
I was sitting in church, listening to our pastor talk about these same words: ask, seek, knock. My ears perked up. That question— “What is it that you want?”—had been surfacing inside of me with increasing frequency. Most of the time, it led my thoughts down a well-grooved path that ended predictably in judgment and despair: I don’t know what I want. Why don’t I know what I want? What is wrong with me? What if I never figure this out?
But that day, something interrupted the familiar just long enough to allow the possibility of desire to take root, shooting a tendril of hope through the layers of confusion and fear protecting my heart. When the invitation came to name my desire, requiring me to get out of my chair and literally bang on a door (several had been strategically set up around the sides of the stage), I knew I had to move.
There was something I wanted bad enough to outweigh the vulnerability of declaring it publicly.
I gave the door several knocks, feeling hope well up inside me as my fist connected with the solid wood, feeling awake, alive, and authentic as my desire was embodied.
In the past few months, I’ve been hearing Jesus’ question again, as I felt the disruption brought on by a season of transition in almost every area of my life. “What is it that you want?” I am not the same woman I encountered in the margins of that book, willing to walk to the edge and talk about desire, yet not quite ready to take the leap into such vulnerable, risky terrain. I am also not the woman summoning the courage to bang on the door for the first time. At 51, I am more sure of who I am and what I am about, more comfortable with both naming and owning my desire, not waiting for someone else to approve and declare it appropriate.
And so, I’ve been banging on the door with more consistency. I am in the midst of the arduous grad school application process, planning to pursue a master’s degree that will take me deeper into the work that I love. For me, this work of helping others discover their stories, examining the relational contexts that have shaped their identities, and facilitating reconciliation and restoration, is evidence of the ongoing redemption of my own story.
In this process, I’ve had to engage my desire like never before, choosing the particular degree that would best serve my desires and which school’s program would best fit who I am and how I learn. I was especially mindful of my desire as I solicited admission recommendations from the people I wanted to speak on my behalf.
I sat with my potential list of names for a long time, risking the vulnerability of invitations only to the three people I most wanted. I asked boldly, letting them know how important they had been to my journey, and how much their recommendation would mean to me, without any equivocating “I want this, but it’s ok if you can’t do this” language.
They all said a resounding yes and offered incredibly sweet affirmations of my desire. But, I am also more sure than ever that I would keep knocking, even if the answer had been no.
How about you? Do you know what it is that you want? What you are willing to bang on a door for?
Janet Stark is a woman learning to bless her depth and sensitivity. She is grateful for the deep love she shares with her husband, Chris, and their kids and grandkids. Janet loves curling up with a good book, trying new recipes on her friends and family, and enjoying long conversations with friends over a cup of really good coffee. She is a life-long lover of words and writes about her experiences here.