Early this morning my husband and I talked with our oldest daughter, who is returning from a week long visit to Cambodia. One of her goals in life is to travel to all 7 continents. At 28 she's well on her way, having added Asia to North and South America, Africa and Europe. Her voice was animated. Cambodia was all that she had hoped for. The people were wonderful, the food was tasty, inexpensive AND gluten-free, and the friend she went to visit was a wonderful tour guide.

Desire can be a powerful motivator. The desire to go to Cambodia spawned a lot of creativity, as Aletheia figured out how she could acquire miles to make the trip affordable. It required imagination and hard work. On the other hand, lack of desire, often masquerading as noble, may really be an unhealthy acquiescence, giving up or giving in. 
I remember the first Christmas that my hyped-up anticipation of the joy I would receive from my Christmas presents was not met. The packages had all been opened and I looked around the room, filled with family, cousins and grandparents, empty boxes covering every inch of floor space, and felt...empty. My desires had been unmet and the uncomfortable feeling of being dissatisfied dogged me the rest of the day. I made a decision. I was going to stop hoping for Christmas to be much of anything. I would assume that I probably wouldn't be happy with what I received, and so ward off the disappointment that would inevitably be a part of all Christmases to come. As a strategy it worked, but I'm not sure my life was the fuller for taking that path.

We can't flee from our desires. Neither does God want us to stuff them in a sack and bury them in the backyard. Rather, we should treat them as signposts, letters from our souls. They help to tell us what we need and perhaps the direction we should be heading. They spur us on to creativity and imagination. They make us think about what it takes to be fulfilled. Perhaps on the surface they are unrealistic, or even harmful in their immaturity. But they spring from something essential to our very nature. Even the desire to have power, for instance, may be telling us about the capacity we have to lead. And the desire to have a significant relationship may showcase the ability to love deeply that is knit into the core of who we are.

In one of my favorite psalms, the poet assumes that God has planted desires in his heart and that God is responsible for the filling of those desires. "May God grant you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed." says David, in Psalm 20, verse 4. A good prayer for us all, not only at Christmas time, but every day of our lives.