What you think you want, is never really what you want

(My colleague here at Patheos, Sam Rocha, has a lovely meditation up on his blog called Education, the Craft of Desire. He raised some familiar themes for me, particularly this idea that we are rarely the authority on what we really want out of life. Here’s a piece I wrote a couple years ago on my old blog dealing with a similar topic. I’d also add, that if you do not already subscribe to Magnificat Magazine, it would make a great late Christmas present to yourself.)





I’ve lost my Magnificat*, and even though there’s only one more day of October, and then I get to refresh with a new issue, I feel lost without it. I don’t realize until I’ve lost it, how much I depend on those prayers of the Church.

My husband, watching me dismantle the house in search of it, asked why I don’t just say my own prayers in the morning, and the answer is because I’m terrible at praying. I know that God knows what I need before I even ask. I know that just redirecting my intentions toward God is a prayer. I know that unloading all my morning demons, and my stupid grievances, and complaining about my sore back, and all that, is prayer. But it also, all of it, is dripping with the self I’d like to leave behind, if not for eternity, then at least for ten minutes in the morning.

I wanted to turn back to a meditation that Mrs. Darwin read aloud on our drive home from New Orleans, which had something to do with the selfishness that’s not satisfied with what it has, but wants what others have too. It resonated with me at the time, because I was already trying to figure out how to rearrange my life so that I could always hang out with fun people having conversations about books. Maybe I could gently uproot the family and move us all to a college campus, or blow our bank account, take out loans, and invest in a commune of Catholic artists and writers. Gently, gently…because mommy wants conversation!

It was ridiculous how quickly my mind embraced the absurd, and began to dwell on it as an alternate, and possibly beneficial, reality to being satisfied with my life.

And then there was another meditation in Magnificat last week about how pride craves “Infinitude,” like the little packman eating it’s way through life, each bite manifesting the next until, what? Power outage? Until Mom says turn off the video games and clean your room? Pride hates authority. It hates equality, because it sees everyone else as competition. And it looks down on it’s inferiors, feeling encumbered by their needs and inferior opinions (if I could find my Magnificat, I’d reference whoever said all this).

It really is a curse to be afflicted with pride. Because your chief sin is the very obstacle to understanding how much you require God’s aid. It’s a blockade. If my own opinion and way of viewing the world is always correct, if my own personal prayers are always superior to the prayers of the church, then how will I reorient myself to the reality that God is the authority of my life? I am not the authority on my life. I am not even the authority on my emotions. Could I even put into words what I’m feeling one minute to the next? Very few of the things that I will for myself are worthy of putting into words, much less a prayer. “Not my will, Thine.”

Unless there is some objective voice in my life to break through the delusion, I can persist for sometime unaware of the truth about myself and how I clod around on the backs of others. The prayers of the Church are that voice for me: the liturgy of the hours, the mass, vespers.

They remind me that what I think I want is never really what I want. They remind me to thank God that I have healthy kids, still safe and innocent, a vibrant marriage– not a perfect one, albeit, but one with two living people in it who will not give up on this endeavor of conforming our lives to each other, our children, and God’s will (as revealed through the teachings of our faith). We are financially cared for. And we have this Faith itself–a faith that provides infinitude, even to the proudest soul–all the bread I can handle, and more each day, an antidote to pride.

Indeed God has poured out blessings on me while I slept. I just need someone to point it out for me. Several times a day.

* For those unfamiliar with Magnificat, it’s a monthly publication, mailed to your door, that contains morning prayers, daily Mass, a meditation, and night prayers, all laid out, nice and handy, each day. So, you don’t have to flip back and forth in your missal wondering if you’re in year A,B, or C, etc. I’m not getting paid for promoting Magnificat.

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About Elizabeth Duffy