What do you really want?

A reflection on what truly matters

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

treasure chest

Have you ever really, really wanted something? Not just wishing it, but with your whole being really wanting it? I’m thinking not just of objects, or presents, but more of achievements or particular situations you would like to be different. For example, you may want to do particularly well in a physics test, or be selected for the first team in netball or hockey. Maybe you want a particular relationship to be better, or – thinking big – peace in the world, or at least a bit more of it.

I’m using the word want here, and not would like or wish, because I think that there are times when wanting is actually what we mean: we use strong language, because we feel strongly about something. And in the following, I would like to explore why there are these particular things we feel so strongly about. What do they tell us about who we are and how we respond to what we are experiencing.

Maybe the best way of doing this is by looking at an example. I guess most of us have had times when we really wanted to do well in a test. To pass an exam, or even better, to get a top-mark. Although my experience of school-exams in further away than it is for some of you, it was only a few weeks ago that I did my mini-bus driving test. After two days and twenty-five loops around Swindon’s Magic Roundabout, I was ready to take the test. As soon as I saw the examiner, I got very nervous, and I realised that I really wanted to pass the test.

I wanted to pass the test, yes, of course, because I would like to be able to drive a mini-bus, that was the whole purpose of it. But, if I’m really honest, I wanted to pass it, because I would feel incredibly stupid and humiliated if I didn’t. I realised that I see myself as someone who doesn’t fail tests, and if I would, I would be very cross with myself. I remember some exams in school for which I wasn’t very well prepared, hoping that I would pass, so that I wouldn’t have to admit that my priorities hadn’t been quite right. However, this time, I was well-prepared, so if I had failed, it would not have been for a lack of work and readiness.

This rather trivial example shows, I think, what is often true when we truly want something: we are afraid that the lack of it shows something of ourselves we don’t want to see, something we would like to hide for others too. We feel vulnerable without it. In Matthew’s Gospel we hear Jesus saying the famous line Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Our desires say something about who we are, not least because they show us where our weakness and vulnerability is.

The good news is, however, that we can learn from our desires and at times learn to redirect them. We can grow in maturity and wisdom, both by reflecting and responding to what we learn about ourselves. There is nothing wrong with being competitive, but not if it’s only because you’re afraid that you’re not much worth without those achievements. It is good to aspire to great things, but only when it comes with a sense of gratitude and often joy in what you are doing.

Especially when you’re young, you are discovering who you are, what you’re good at, and where your vulnerabilities lie, but it’s a journey that continues your whole life. People of wisdom and integrity are those who are increasingly able to see their vulnerabilities as strengths and to treasure and use who they are to support and encourage others.

Each one of us is a unique person, and as Christians we believe, uniquely made in the image of God. None of us is perfect, but each of us is treasured and has vast amounts of treasures to offer ourselves. The challenge is to learn to recognise what they are, and to use them not just for ourselves, but also for the common good. If we manage to continue to do so, more and more, what we really want becomes what we already have.

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