The opening scene in the classic film Happy Gilmore finds the title character desperately trying to make an impression at hockey try-outs for some sort of men’s team. Happy has desire and aggression and is willing to do anything to impress the coaches. He only has one problem.
Happy can’t skate.
It is obvious to everyone except Happy that hockey is not his calling. He refuses to give up on his dream to play pro hockey, even in the face of ridicule from his coaches and friends. Fortunately for Happy (and his grandma) he finds that he is naturally gifted at golf and finds a new outlet and calling.
It is easy to poke fun at Happy’s hockey dreams in the movie. I am sure we have all met ‘that guy’ in our lives. The one who could have made it, if only he had caught a few breaks.
Or the person who is chasing a career path that seems to lead nowhere, yet they refuse to give it up.
People who refuse to give up on their dreams in spite of the obstacles can teach most of us a thing or two. On the one hand, life comes with very practical requirements. As we get older, we have more responsibilities. More family commitments and financial obligations. Most of us will find something that works well enough in our lives and if we can meet all our obligations with a little left over for something else – that feels like a win.
But if this is true, what happens to the dreams? The passions and desires we all carry in our hearts. Do they fade away, buried by the busyness of life or collapse underneath all the commitments?
That cannot be the end of it.
All of us carry deep desires – desires imprinted on the walls of our hearts. These are the places deep within us that when we access them, we become alive. Sometimes you can see it happen before your eyes.
I have a good friend who has a respectable job and a young family – he makes a good income, and his work is interesting. Over beers one night, an important question came up: “If money was not a constraint, what would you do for work?” He coaches his son’s hockey team, but also works with some of the older players and talked about his passion for helping them develop not only as hockey players, but as young men. You could see his demeanour change as he shared his experiences.
The beer probably helped, but the thought of living out one of the desires on his heart made him come alive.
This week the Church celebrated the feast day of St. Irenaeus, a Bishop in the early Church. I do not know a lot about St. Irenaeus, but there is a quote attributed to him that I have heard a lot over the last few years: “The Glory of God is man fully alive”.
If St. Irenaeus is right, what does that mean about those desires on our hearts and how do I reconcile that with the obligations and the daily grind that is often the reality?
The desires of our hearts are not there by accident. They were placed there, uniquely in each of us, by God. They can be a signpost and guide us in the direction we are meant to go and lead us to a place of more life.
This does not mean we should just become unhinged and throw aside everything to chase down our wildest passions or appetites. There are many nights when I have succumbed to my stomach’s desire to eat twice as much pizza as I should. It feels good, but there is a cost to be paid later.
The desires I am speaking of are not the selfish ones. The father of a former schoolmate of mine left his mother and started dating a woman of a much different age. He apparently told people that the relationship ‘made him feel alive’. To an outsider, the damage that the father’s decision caused made it clear that this was not a ‘Glory of God’ pursuit.
Deep down we all have a desire to do something for the good of others. ‘Living with purpose’ is a buzz-phrase we hear a lot in the current culture.
From a Kingdom perspective, what does that mean? Frederick Buechner, an American theologian, said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Those desires on our hearts are there on purpose. As we examine them, they become a compass, leading us to where we need to be.
Discerning what it is I am meant to do with my life, as it turns out, is not a singular occurrence. It is a constant aligning and realigning. A seeking out of the Father’s will for my life and putting my efforts into moving in that direction.
The culture today tells us that we can be whoever or whatever we want. That we should do what makes us feel good. We are free to do as we like, as long as we try not to hurt anyone.
From witnessing older people I respect and in my own experience, I am learning that instead of seeking to gain as much as I can from the world – the most money, pleasure, comfort – I should be seeking that which is being asked of me and how I can use my life to answer that call.
With those unique desires, God has unique plans for each of us. He has called us, in this time of history for a specific reason. We are tasked with searching for the path and asking for His guidance along the way. It easy to lament the difficulties of the current age. But if we are able to see past these challenges, we will discover the greater purpose for which we are created.
I am aware that it might be irresponsible for many of us to quit our jobs and go on a full-time pursuit of our passions that we believe we were designed for. That said, we have to be careful not to let the fear of losing what is comfortable stop us from pursuing our true calling.
Perhaps you have been sitting on a great idea for a small business. One that would provide a lot of value to clients but have never moved on it for fear of being impractical. Taking that first step is bold but can lead to greater life.
If this is not your situation, there are other things we can do to help us move in the direction of finding our true calling. That which is most aligned to our heart’s great desires that feeds the hunger of those around us.
Like my friend and his hockey coaching, there are many opportunities to try out different paths on a ‘risk free’ basis. It may cost some time, but if we dive into something and believe it is the thing for us only to find that isn’t, we have not lost much if it does not work out.
Maybe it’s a blog or podcast that you have been thinking about doing. Try it out. The longer you wait to start, the longer it will be before you can answer the question of whether it is the thing for you.
Seeking God’s will means taking time out to reflect and pray on it. God has a big plan for each of us – sometimes bigger than we can imagine. In my experience, if it is His will, the impossible will be made possible.
The desires of our heart, placed there by God, are good and can be the fuel to drive us to great things. To become people that are fully alive and living manifestations of God’s glory.
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