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On Desires. Dead or Alive?

So many people have responded to this blog that it's humbling.  A certain topic came up today at coffee hour (the Orthodox Church's post-liturgy feast) that is gnawing at me since Leo's birth.  Call it a Christian idea or a revelation in the realm of parenting but actually our children are the pinpoints of our desires.  Any parent will have a checklist for what their kid should be able to do from the most basic at birth... sight, hearing, movement, to the the more abstract desires later on... will the kid be a heart surgeon, Olympian, teacher, etc?  The whole spectrum of desires, specifically tied to the new being, begins to surge in the parent before birth and grows to astronomical proportions as time goes on.  "Love" too grows in the same way but I am choosing to focus on desires because that is often the missing equation in trying to figure out why parents act the way they do.
Desire is of course an emotion that is useful in order to obtain the perceived "good", in this case it would be the child's health, happiness, well being, and development.  I don't think this a very profound observation on my part, but I feel with Leo's birth I had to face my desires in a profound way and all at once.  Anna and I are convinced that as children grow up there is a long test going on of the parents desires.  Right under their nose and over a number of years many "small" desires of parents have been tested, satisfied, frustrated, changed, fulfilled, lost, denied, ignored, matured.  But thankfully this doesn't happen all at once.  It happens as the child grows.  Without recognizing it a test is underway for the parent in their desires for their child.  The child, who is grow(ing) up, is putting to death the sometimes childish desires of the parent.  This process can be beautiful but it also can be painful depending on how active the desire has lingered in the parent or how frustrated it is.   
But this isn't the point, and I don't want to go too much down that road.  The point is that the desire is always there for parents.  It is part of our emotional makeup.  "Normal" kids give us the incredible gift of allowing us to adapt in small doses over a number of years until finally they declare themselves as mature adults (the definition of this is somewhat ambiguous).  Others, like the Leo's of the world, threaten to test every desire from the beginning in no small dose.  From the beginning he has asked me to put my desires to death, so to speak.  What I want for him is basically out of reach.  I find that my desires remain but as my child he is telling me that I must change or I will go crazy.  I must step over or there is no hope.  He is telling me that the "good" I desire for him will be beyond my scope and that even my most basic desires for him will have to change or die.  This is strong language, but I don't think it is beyond the scope of what a normal child will do to a parent over the course of many years.  The problem is that the "struggle" is often innocuous and it slips under the conscience radar of parents.  Leo has decided to put it all on the table all at once (something I don't wish for any parent) and therefore asks us to do either two things...find a new road of acceptance or just carry on in our sinful reckoning with reality, lost in our frustrated desires.
The Christian message is obvious, and I am not saying I have achieved it because it comes in the form of a challenge.  At every step our desires have to change, become more Godly and not repressed, and understood in light of the Cross.  That is where they are fulfilled.  This reality is an untenable thread in the the Gospels and in St. Paul especially.  I think the big test is not even coming from "Church" so to speak but from a  true desire that parents have with their kids, and somehow that is crowned and finds new life in the context of Church.
Wow, I have to work tomorrow and I am up writing about desires.  Strange.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.   


  1. Justin,

    I falsely grew up believing that God gives us the desires of our hearts--meaning, we desire, and then He gives us what we want. But then I was challenged to see it differently at the age of 28--God gives us the desires of our hearts, meaning, he puts the desires in our hearts in the first place. That changed everything for me. I truly believe that God does and does not "fulfill" our desires, but He puts them there regardless, as a way of talking intimately with us, of showing Himself to us so personally, as a way of drawing us to Him that is irresistible. It's so painful and so life giving at the same time. I don't understand how this can be. I have nothing figured out.

    When I see Leo, my heart races. I cry. He gives me a glimpse of Jesus every time. I don't know how to explain it. It's not about me anyway. Somehow he seems to so perfectly capture God's desires for all of us. I love you guys. My words are imperfect, maybe maddening. There really aren't words that can speak adequately to where you are. I just want you to know I love all of you and am here.

  2. Justin, I love reading your writing. You have an amazing talent. Not everyone can give people a glimpse into their heart of hearts as you can. It really is incredible. God has given you a great talent. Thank you so much for sharing with us about LeoLove you. I feel like I'm really a part of everything even though I'm not around all the time.

  3. Hee Hee, thanks guys for chiming in and adding to my late night musing. What Becka said was clearer than how I put it. Nice. Thanks Sis for the boost of confidence.

  4. Dearest Justin,
    We are absent from life far too much-sorrow makes it impossible to be absent and endows us with a real presence. It crashes our plans and desires and redefines the course of our lives. It demands change and a fearless inventory of ourselves and our priorities. It calls us to lay our desires and lives at the foot of the cross in a total act of relinquishment. This is no easy task! And in the process we are either hardened or purified. Your little brave Lion will lead your way, all you have to do is follow. And when the burden seems more than what you can bear, remember that God gives strength. Take your eyes off yourself and your difficulties and look to God. Our prayers are always with all of you. Love to all.

  5. I woke up this morning having had a dream after reading your posting last night, Justin. As dreams go, yes, this one was a little strange. It took place a 3-4 years from now, and it was time to see the neurologist, yet again. just routine visit, and Nika wanted to sit this one out, so she & I waited in the waiting room. I asked her if she would like to post thoughts on Leo's blog, and with great enthusiam ( as any 6 yr old...going on 16yr) she did. Her thoughts included how Leo is special. . . but what makes him special is his family. "I can make him laugh and giggle when I talk silly to him, when my mama talks to him his his arms and legs get all excited, and when papa sings with his guitar, he responds as he is singing along."

    It was a short dream but got me to think as well. As parents, we are never taught how to do this very difficult job, just given gifts and wise parents to help us be the best we can. Of course looking down at our little gifts from God, we find ourselves dreaming of what they might become, but really raising our children is a daily stream of events. Each day we are surprised by little comments, tested of our unconditional love, and have our hearts melted by that unexpected hug :-) One might get caught up in projecting ahead to what might or might not be, in the future, but oh how one might miss that little moment of joy! So enjoy the day and what is unveiled to you this day :-)

  6. So true! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Indeed, we - as parents - tend to see our child as a part of our own image and therefore put on him our own expectations, although we - as children - always resist our parents' expectations and insist on our own identity. Later in life, the roles seem to reverse: we - as old parents - loose our expectations and become more acceptable of uniqueness of our children, but at the same time we - as adult children - tend to worry more about our own image in general... hence our own children become a vent. And the vicious cycle continues.

    In order to break it, ideally, our prayer - both parents and children, young and old - should be, "Thank You, Our Heavenly Father, for giving us our beloved! Please bless, protect, and save them according to Your perfect love and will, not ours. And also in Your loving kindness, help us to notice and understand this!"

    Now we all are blessed with little angel Leo, and he is leading us the right way. ;-)

    And on the other note. We keep forgetting to ask: is there a reason why Leo's shunt is put on the right side of his head?

  7. I saw Leo's blogspot on my great nephew Ben's blog which his Mom, my dear niece, keeps updated with various pictures and remarks. I am so sorry that you are experiencing the same as Becky and many others she has met on blogs. Your little Leo is adorable and by the Grace of God he will be here for a long time to love you and be a gentle spirit for all of those around him. Ben taught us so much and Becky is and was such an awesome Mom and caretaker for Ben and his other siblings. Take it a day at a time, because that is what God has given us--One Day to do the best we can. I'll keep you and your precious Leo in my thoughts and prayers. When you go onto Ben's blog, you'll see his "friends" in a column. Click on Caleb M. He is a precious child and comes from an awesome family. Just reading these blogs will help you get through each day.

  8. When I think about what you must be going through as parents (the good and not so good) I think of wise Saint Symeon telling the young new parent the Theotokos, "and a sword will pierce your heart also." I could see her coming to these moments of expectation (which in themselves are unsinful and loving), and stopping to think, "but MY son is the son of God. I wonder, when will that sword come to strike? should I expect the best? the worst? Well, lets see how He wishes me to hope". Not to put words in her mouth, of course - but know that, with out a doubt, she knows what you are going through, and has special regard for Leo and yourselves.
    We love you, and btw that video clip was awesome...its like all that "ah ah" was leading up to his great sneeze. Too cute for words.

  9. Justin: Your mother just sent us the link to this blog. This morning I arose early and read through all of them. I'm sure you are familiar with the Celtic saying, "Go to a thin place." That's what I experienced reading all these entries. The distance between "on earth" and "as it is in heaven" became a lot thinner here. Thank you for inviting us in. I especially appreciated (and was challenged by) this post, and also Rebekah's response on God "giving us" the desires of our hearts. What a beautiful paradigm shift you've articulated.

    Love & Prayers - Aram (from long ago :-)


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