Opening to the Spirit
Today’s word: Wanting
) Wishing and wanting: as children, so much of our young lives seem bound up in our desires to grow up quickly so we can do all the things adults do. In our senior years it is tempting to look back and wish we were young again. We would redo the parts where we made mistakes. If only we could go back, we would enjoy the good things we were too busy to appreciate.
What would our lives be like if we stopped wanting what we don’t have, accepted what we do have and stopped to give thanks for today’s blessings? Nevertheless it is an enduring challenge to turn off the little “wanter” that sits inside my heart. Right now I want to be thinner, have more free time and feel less stressed.
Just sitting down to this writing exercise though allows me the occasion to appreciate the moment of calm that surrounds me. I enjoy this time to write with colleagues. I give thanks for this space carved out in a busy day. I really don’t need one more thing than this small pause.
My “wanter” has been silenced for the moment.
) We have some young children in our congregation who come eagerly each week to worship and Sunday school. Their first words as I greet them at the door are usually: I want to ring the bell, or I want to light the candle. We have tasks for many of them: “The Acknowledgement of Native Land”, the monthly coin collection for our foster child, or the Echo prayer after story time. With eight or nine children however, not everyone gets to do what they want. What a powerful life lesson.
“We can't always get what we want, but if we try sometimes, we get what we need.” Yes, I am quoting the lyrics of a Rolling Stones song. Wanting and getting are two very different things. There may be some in our society who are truly privileged, and have the money to actually fulfill their every desire, at least, advertisers seem to hope so. The rest of us have to make choices. What do we really want? What do we actually need?
When I think of “wanting”, I think of harmony, world peace, a non-violent world, food and shelter for everyone. What I need to achieve these dreams is not money but a change of attitude. Working together, if we try sometimes, we may get what we need.
) We used to play a game, the girls and I, called Wants and Wishes. On a bleak weather day with nothing else to do, giving our imaginations free reign could brighten the mood. We'd name all those things that were missing from our lives - a dishwasher, matching winter caps and mittens, and a car that didn't break down every other week. The more we imagined, the wilder we got. One daughter decided being a princess wasn't enough, she wanted the whole castle, and another topped that with her own personal genie and a "real" magic carpet. Outrageous wishing was somehow satisfying; naming our wildest wants had even a kind of cleansing effect. We'd play it all out until we could think of nothing more. At the end we'd agreed to give thanks that we had quite a lot already to make us happy, including each other, if happy we were to be.
Needless to say, as a single mom with four growing ups, my wants were quite pedestrian: that my girls would be safe and healthy, that I would keep my job in a cycle of layoffs. And by all means the tangibles: to be pare down the electric bill, to be able to call a plumber, to find enough sales and coupons to cut the grocery bill. At that point, I'd remember I was blessed - for somehow we always made it to each month's end.
Wanting rhymes with haunting. In the background of our lives, it's hard not to think of all whose real needs, let alone wants, go unfulfilled. What does it feel like to live in a state of perpetual wanting? I will never know, from this privileged place and time where just about anything that comes to mind, within reason, is within reach. I turn to my spouse and say, next time we're out, let's pick up (fill in the blank - food, gadgets or bottle of wine). So much of what we want far outstrips our needs. And I am haunted by the awareness that for much of the world, and not far from my own doorstep, such is not the case.
If all our needs and desires could be fulfilled, wouldn't there yet be something left "wanting" - something we don't even know we need. Isn't a world where others are not left wanting what we should want most of all?
) It all depends on what we want. Some wanting is like a black hole. We can never get enough of the things that we didn’t really need in the first place. We want things. We want recognition. We want control.
Over and over, our Scriptures tell us to turn ourselves toward God. We are told to put on the mind of Christ. We are told to ask for what we need in Christ’s name and we will receive it. These are the wants that can be fulfilled. This is the living water that leaves us never thirsty.
It is all about our orientation. When we want what God wants there is always enough because we are thinking about what we can share, rather than what we can accumulate. When we want what God wants we don’t have to go looking for love because we know that we are love. When we want what God wants we do not waste time trying to be in control because we know that we are not.
Let’s not waste time storing up things for ourselves that will not last but, rather, put our minds to things that endure. Always and always this is love. Try wanting things for other people. Want justice for the oppressed. Want food for the hungry. Want peace in your relationships for love of the other person.
Want God to live in your heart and guide your thoughts. With this you will no longer want the things that cause you harm. With this you will want only what is good.
One word, four voices -now it's your turn to reflect: What is wanting in your life?
Rev. Mead Baldwin pastors the Waterville & North Hatley pastoral charge; Rev. Lynn Dillabough is now Rector of St. Paul's in Brockville ON. She continues to write for this column as a dedicated colleague with the Eastern Townships clergy writing team; Rev. Lee Ann Hogle ministers to the Ayer’s Cliff, Magog & Georgeville United Churches; Rev. Carole Martignacco is Consulting Minister to UU Estrie-unitarian Universalists in North Hatley.