Our fundamental vocation is to be the person God created. This is both who you are, right now, and who you are becoming. We discover this through desire.
– Fr. James Martin*
There is a long history within the Christian tradition of denying desire.
Desire has been understood as something to be controlled and suppressed. Whether of a sexual nature or not, it has been viewed with judgment, fear, and suspicion.
Listening for the longings of my heart? Asking myself: what do I want?
These questions have for a long time been assumed to be selfish. That in order to be faithful, we must focus primarily on what other people want.
But what if it is through our most authentic desires that God calls us? What if we need to ask these questions in order to find our way?
In recent years, I have been introduced to other Christian traditions that affirm desire. Both the mystical and Ignatian streams of Christian spirituality teach that desire is a sacred dynamic that draws us into deeper and deeper intimacy with Christ.
Or as James Martin, the Jesuit priest I quoted above suggests, it is through an honest exploration of our desires that we come to really know ourselves, can discover our identity, and find the path to living lives of authentic service and love.
It has been an incredibly healing process for me to begin listening for, and claiming my desires.
Not all of them are healthy or to be acted upon. These desires push me to seek God’s healing and greater freedom from fear.
Some of them have surprised me and brought me to places I would have never expected. Places marked by the grace of God.
But I am learning that all of my desires have something to teach me.
All of them are worthy of being seen and honoured. All of them have the potential to be used by God for my good, and I trust, the good of my community.
And so, for some time now, I have been pondering how to invite others into this conversation with me; how I might support others in encountering their own desires.
What has emerged is a weekend retreat: Encounter Desire.
From Oct.20-22, a group will gather at Crieff Hills Retreat Centre to spend a weekend devoted to sacred listening within. Listening to the longings of our hearts, befriending our desires, and beginning to contemplate how God might be calling us through these desires.
If this sounds appealing to you – we would love to have you join us.
This retreat might be especially helpful if you find yourself in a space of transition or anticipate needing to make a significant life decision in the coming months, but anyone who wants to practice cultivating the capacity to listen more deeply to God and the depths of the soul is welcome.
Whether through this retreat or not, it is my hope that we can all find spaces to begin befriending our desires as we allow the Spirit to continue shaping us into who God desires us to be.
**If you are interested in the retreat, the registration deadline is October 4th. Go to the retreat page to find the registration form.**
*The quote from Fr. James Martin was summarized from an interview with “On Being” (NPR), Dec.1, 2016
Tamara Shantz is a pastor with Pastors in Exile.
In addition to working with PiE, Tamara is a spiritual director and Enneagram teacher. She attends Stirling Ave. Mennonite Church. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.