The Desires of Your Heart

Psalm 37:4-5 “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the LORD; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”

The moment came in basic training when I knew I had a deep natural ability to be a leader. It was during one of those funky obstacle courses that tests not only your strength but your courage. There are structures you climb up high where the wood is all covered with mud from all the muddy boots climbing the same structure before you, and you’re so tired you can barely hang on anyhow. Then the logs get bigger the higher you go so you have to jump to get over the top one–and you’re thirty feet in the air. That kind of courage comes easy to me, so it wasn’t anything at all. What mattered at that moment, though I didn’t think about it consciously, was to get my squad through the course.

Gnarly big tree outside San Ramon, CA

Gnarly big tree outside San Ramon, CA

The thing is, it wasn’t my squad. I’d been pre-selected to be squad leader in the reception station but when I got to basic the Field First Sergeant asked me some question that I don’t remember and my answer was “I don’t like being told what to do.”  I can still see his eyes when I said that, they were a steely unreadable blue. It was no surprise to me that I was not selected as squad leader, though they did remind me fro nine weeks that I did not like to be told what to do.

Sometime later, we were running through this particular obstacle course. Time in basic training has no consistency with time on the outside. I couldn’t tell you when something happened, I can just tell you what happened. Events are measured as individual moments, specific pieces of misery or joy or confusion or anger. Running the obstacle course was far enough into it that I unconsciously started directing “my” people and shouting and herding them through the course, like I’d seen John Wayne do in The Fighting Seabees or The Sands of Iwo Jima.  I acted instinctively, and not because anything had gone wrong. There was no problem to solve, no one was in any trouble, there was no crisis. I just did it because it seemed necessary. I remember the moment very clearly and I knew at the time, as though I was watching myself that I was fulfilling the desires of my heart. It was one of the finest moments of my life, doing what came naturally in a very outward and noticeable way. There was a joy in doing it that I’d never before experienced–that was the moment I decided to make the Army a career.

I remembered this today because it occurred to me that because for many years virtually nothing I’ve done has come naturally. I concentrate more on behaving well than I do on pursuing my heart’s desire. Most of the time that’s OK. Most people have to work at things they’d rather not do. But every so often I long for the times and moments when I can do what I love to do;  things that come as naturally to me as breathing.

For years after I got out of the Army I refused to entertain the idea of doing what I loved to do. It seemed a self-indulgent idea, and I didn’t know anybody who was earning a living doing they liked to do. I wanted to have something in common with people who’d not been in the military and being miserable at work seemed a good way to do that. It didn’t work out. My heart wouldn’t go along with it. It kept remembering those times like the obstacle course, and dreaming on its own of times in the future that might be like that only better. My heart believed even if I didn’t.


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