What is the desire of your heart for 2016?
“Lose 20 pounds” or “Get my son to pick up his room” or “Go to the gym three times a week to work out?” These are helpful, but I’m talking about something deeper that will be like a beacon for the coming year, pointing out where to turn, what to seek, what to do, what to say, and how to spend your time.
So, let me ask again: What is the desire of your heart for 2016?
To think about what this deep desire might be is something we generally don’t do. I know I don’t as I hurry from one task to the next. Yet, the truth is, what we desire will direct our actions and choices even if we aren’t fully conscious of this.
While each of needs to determine this desire I would like to offer three quotes from the Rule to provide a model for us. Benedict can help us pinpoint that desire as well as to help us live into it. This wisdom comes from the leadership positions of Abbot/Abbess, Cellarer and Porter of the monastery. Each addresses relationship and together they illustrate the Great Commandment of Jesus to love God and neighbor as self that is found in the opening of Benedict’s Chapter 4 – The Tools for Good Works.
“First of all, love the Lord God with your whole heart, your whole soul and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31: Luke 10:27 in RB 4.1-2.
The Desire of the Heart from the Abbot/Abbess – Loving God
Benedict advises the superior to not overly concerned with “the fleeting and temporal things of this world,” neglecting the true work of the care of the persons entrusted to him or her, even if lack of resources is a pressing concern or worry. The superior is “to remember what is written: Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things will be given you as well (Matt 6:33), and again, Those who reverence God lack nothing. (Ps 34:10) in RB 2.35-36
Our relationship with God can be the guiding light in our lives, replacing anxiousness or focus on things that aren’t to our liking but over which we may not have any control at all. The desire of our heart could center in our love of God as the priority in our life. What this priority would look like lived out would be different for each of us but could contain practices such as taking a deep breath when we are frustrated and turning to God in our hearts, or remembering God’s presence as we rise each morning or offering prayers of thanksgiving, or praying before we face a difficult choice or conversation, or daily reading of Scripture.
The Desire of the Heart from the Cellarer – Loving Others
While I could have chosen verse 6 from the chapter on the cellarer – “The cellarer should not annoy the monastics” – I hesitated using a negative for the desire even though not to annoy one another is a worthy cause. My recollection from a training session on children in the church is when we tell children, “Don’t run,” they really don’t hear the negative and instead, run!
How about the following as a desire of the heart for our relationships? Benedict tells the cellarer that if someone asks for something that isn’t available to “offer a kind word in reply, for it is written a kind word is better than the best gift” (Sir 18:17 and RB 31.13-14). Benedict probably knew that scarcity could create raw emotions as people cannot have what they need or want. The cellarer is to not get caught in the emotion of the situation but turn it into an opportunity to build relationship through kindness. While the person will leave without what they wanted, at least they will know that they are loved and cared about.
If we don’t know what else to do in a situation, we can be kind and speak kindly. This desire of the heart to offer a kind word will go a long way in promoting peace in our relationships, which Benedict himself desires with this instruction.
The Desire of the Heart from the Porter at the Gate of the Monastery – Loving Ourselves
The porter of the monastery has a demanding job. He or she is to be always available to guests of the monastery and must practice flawless hospitality to visitors. Benedict states that the monastery is never without guests and that the guests can arrive at unpredictable hours (53.16). As a result the porter could be very busy at all hours of the day and night. Benedict provides a compassionate solution to exhaustion: “Let the porter be given one of the younger monastics if he or she needs help” (66.5). All in the monastery are to be at peace, and here Benedict explains a way that the porter can be assured that he or she could perform the job without stress, anxiousness or fatigue.
Could a desire of our heart for ourselves throughout 2016 be that we will become more aware of where we need help and take steps to ask for that help? I admit that I often think that other people, especially my husband John, should know when I need help without my having to ask for it and think asking for it shouldn’t be necessary. Wow! There goes my pride for sure! If you and I can learn to ask for help from others I think we will be a whole lot calmer and isn’t that something we all desire! And we would give others an opportunity to respond of what we need.
Summing It All Up
The desire of our hearts can be many things. Benedict offers us these – to seek God first, to offer kind words and to ask for help. My old and now fully with the Lord spiritual director would remind to me, “The desire’s the fire.” What is the desire of your heart right now?
God bless your reflections and the living into that desire.
To use the Tool that goes with this article, click here.