“At all times bless the Lord, your God, and ask him that all your paths may be straight and all your endeavors and plans may prosper” (Tb 4:19).
Gazing upon the prick marks in the crook of my arm — the result of yet another round of blood work — I asked God, “Why?” Unlike the many times I had previously asked, the question arose not from a place of anger or frustration; it came as a whisper from a bewildered child to an omniscient father. Why had he given me a desire that seemed nearly unattainable?
Some desires stem from our fallen humanity. We may lust after intoxicated nights, a garden and villa, or a more lithe body. Such aspirations are merely impulses from our base nature — the ungoverned side upon which the whispering devil perches, attempting to trap us within this transient world. There are some desires, however, that are placed lovingly within our hearts; they are woven into our beings by the creator. These holy desires can be discerned through prayer and spiritual guidance. We can trust that they will always, when faithfully pursued, lead us to fulfillment of the Lord’s perfect plan for us. However, holy desires are not always given to us for the sake of the end. Sometimes, it seems, God gives us the desire so that we tread a certain path. And, sometimes, that path curves and climbs and is choked with brambles.
Long ago, I uncovered a deep longing for motherhood. Days filled with prams, rattles and nursery rhymes seemed to me a fairytale life. I nannied throughout high school and college, certain that much of my truest schooling was done while chasing toddlers. Upon entering into the sacrament of marriage, the desire magnified in light of its potential attainment. Tears flooded the months, though, as those coveted lines never appeared and the answer remained, “Not yet.” Eventually, the appointments and tests began. My days became dominated by blood work, ultrasounds and the like. Frustration became anger, which eventually collapsed into despondency. Weary, I prayed that God would take away this desire. This, he did not do.
So, I asked — yet again — that simple question. “Why?” Slowly, his answer unraveled throughout my days. I found that the pursuit of motherhood was changing me, sanctifying me. The pain and uncertainty provided ample opportunity for heroic patience — a virtue I severely lacked. It strengthened my marriage as my husband and I leaned on each other and dug deeper into the beauty of our sacramental bond. Most significantly, it thrust me into total reliance on the Lord. Powerless, all I could do was fall to my knees and reach out to touch him, like all of those people in the Gospels who sought healing with unbounded faith.
I no longer ask that this desire be torn from me. Now, my prayer is that he will reorient my desire. I ask for the grace and strength to maintain my peace and accept all of the trials that this journey brings. I do not want to be rid of this longing. I want this longing to purify me, to pull me through turbulent waters and cleanse me, to lift me ever higher toward love himself. Through my desire for a fertile body, I trust that God will give me a fertile heart.
Holy desires will always lead to the attainment of that which should be our greatest desire: perfect abiding in his love. We are given these inclinations so that we may pursue them and, in doing so, get caught up in his arms. Though the road may prove difficult, we must never lose peace. If he wills it, it will happen, but in his time.
St. Monica longed for her son’s conversion. She suffered through the years of his debauchery, trusting that the Lord would fulfill the longing in her heart; the Church now looks to her son as a paragon of faith. St. Thérèse of Lisieux yearned to become a Carmelite nun but was refused time and again; through prayer and persistence, she eventually entered the convent and, there, spent the rest of her holy years. Hannah begged the Lord for a son, despite years of barrenness; he gave her not only Samuel but also three more sons and two daughters.
We are called to pursue the desires of our hearts, but not to rely upon our own strength. We must take hold of his hand and allow him to lead us over roots and rubble, higher and higher until we reach the heights. He will give rain in due season, and all will bloom.