I remember the day pretty clearly. I was somewhere between six and seven. It was a bright, perfect summer day, and my brother and I had spent the whole day with our babysitter. Circumstances had it that our babysitter’s mom had to pick all of us up and take us to her friend’s house for a pool party. My brother, who was about nine at the time, was able to go along with them – he was old enough. I was not. I had to stand there and watch him, my babysitter, and all her siblings jump into a pool – and it was a flippin’ awesome pool, with a slide and a little waterfall and everything. Every six-year-old’s dream pool.
I had to get back in the van with my babysitter’s mom and go back home. It was my deepest desire at that moment to go home and ask my mom’s permission to go back. My mom, being the wise woman that she is, said no, I was too young, and it wasn’t their responsibility to look after me. You can imagine that my tiny six-year-old heart was shattered. My deepest desire had not been met.
You remember being a kid, right? Your desires were pretty transient. Your desires were usually a toy at the store or the chance to jump into a pool. Fleeting (but still super fun) things. We didn’t really hide our desires either. We would cry, throw tantrums, cry some more, and then be sent to our rooms. That happened to me plenty of times. And through that, we learn that it’s really not appropriate to throw a fit every time we don’t get what we want.
But we still have desires. I think an adverse effect of that is that we learn to hide our desires as well, so that we don’t lash out when we don’t get them. As we grow, our desires grow as well. They become more transcendent than an ice cream cone on a hot day or a dip in a pool. They reach down and take root in our hearts – which makes it hurt even more when they’re uprooted. You know these desires. You’ve felt them.
To be loved. To be accepted. To be cherished and respected. To be successful. Whatever it is you think about when you think about desire.
I desire to belong. To find my place in this giant puzzle of the world. I think most people have a similar desire. They just want to know that they’re supposed to do. That desire can become a longing, a deep groaning in our souls. Something we live every day for the fulfillment of. Something that gives us hope.
But what happens when, time and again, that desire is unmet? All the internships and interviews fall through. A string of messy break-ups. Another minimum-wage job. A fight with a best friend. That hope is gone, not forever, but long enough to cause a deep hole, a deep pain. You’ve felt that pain before. Sometimes you relish that pain. Because that pain has taken the place of your desire, and you don’t want to let that desire go. So you don’t let the pain go. You hold on to it, you house it in your heart until its thorns gnarl at the branches of your desires and it dies.
Hidden desires are painful. Unmet desires are painful. What do we do when hope is gone? When the tears don’t stop, when the failures line up at our door? What are we supposed to do?
Let the tears water the garden of your desire. Here’s the trick: hope is never gone. A tree can die, but its seed causes a new shoot to grow. Desires grow from other desires. Life grows from life, hope from hope. You might have to weather a storm, but imagine how green and growing you’ll be afterward.
Own your desires. Don’t hide them; let them blossom. Don’t be ashamed – be as excited as you were when you got to jump in a pool as a kid. And if your tree gets knocked down, it’s okay to be broken, to be in pain, to be in tears. But let that pain strengthen the roots of your desires. Let the light shine through those broken pieces. And keep growing.