Spiritual Reflections: Thirsting
This has been a long hot summer and it’s not even August yet! I find myself trying to remember to take a refillable water bottle with me when I get in the car. I recall with a smile having heard for the first time that we have a difficult time recognizing when we are thirsty. Sometimes we think that we are hungry when actually we are thirsty. But this summer I have found myself at the sink drinking more than one glass of water at a time, a sign that I was much thirstier than I recognized.
I suspect that our inability to recognize when we are thirsty has several parallels in our life. One of these is our desire for more stuff. For some of us it is electronics, tools, or sports equipment, for others collectables, used clothing and kitchen gadgets. This list could go on but our over- stuffed closets and basements, which have spilled out into the storage facilities that dot our nation, stand in testimony to our desire for more stuff.
If you have been graced enough to recognize this issue in your own life, there is a good chance that you have begun to look upon the “desire for more” as the source of the problem. That may be a very good place to begin. I would like to propose an alternative perspective: that the desire for more stuff is really a misreading of our desire. This is much like how we may misinterpret our thirst for hunger and reach for something to eat when our bodies really need fluids.
I believe that the “desire for more” part of the human person, placed there by God, is meant to encourage us out of ourselves and to be connected to other people and to God. One of the problems is that we have not let ourselves experience the desire as something good in itself. Therefore we do not sit with the desire itself and get to know it, what it feels like and what it is telling us. Desire is among those unpleasant feelings like anger, guilt, failure, and loss. Therefore we try to avoid staying with those feelings. But then we never learn what they have to tell us either. God gives all of our feelings to serve us well if we will let them.
So how might this feeling of “desiring more” begin to serve us? It can teach us that we are not complete in ourselves. No matter how much we have, or how accomplished we have become, we are not complete, we look for something more. In most of us it moves outside of self-preoccupation into a desire to be connected to others and to seek their good as a source of fulfillment and happiness. It leads to family relationships, volunteering, and acts of generosity when disasters happen to a neighbor or across the glob. It also leads to a desire to seek our more meaning for our lives than they have in themselves. That desire most of experience as a desire for God, the source of all meaning.
Desire is not the problem. It is really the solution. Desire can be without any direction especially if we rushed to move past the feeling because it is uncomfortable. Desire can also be out of control; everyone who dealt with an addiction can vouch of that. But I believe that desire is given to each of us in good measure to lead us beyond ourselves, into meaningful relationships with others and God.
If ever you feel like you need a place to reflect on how God might be using your desires, IL RITIOR has three small hermitages that are ideal places for personal reflection.