There is this assertive presence in my life that has been persistent in both pushing me forward and calling me forth. The best I can do to identify this assertive presence is to call it “longing”—”holy longing” perhaps.

There is a beautiful passage from the book, “The Wounding and Healing of Desire” by Wendy Farley that reads:

Longing is the motion of the heart toward that which it does not or cannot possess. Our deepest desires are not always known to us, but our longings are their light footsteps in the snow. If we follow them carefully, we might be led deeper into the hidden structures of our heart.1

I’m facilitating a small group right now on discernment that draws heavily on the Ignatian discernment process. My spiritual director was telling me recently that all discernment boils down to three steps: observing, understanding, and acting. In my reading and preparation for this group, I’ve been doing a lot more observing (looking at the light footsteps in the snow) but it is a much more difficult process to understand what I am observing about myself.

I read recently that certain traditional Polynesian navigators can can detect an island miles beyond the horizon by a pattern in the waves and the behavior of birds.2 Through generations of cumulative knowledge they’ve learned to not only to observe, but to also understand what they see in the waves and birds of the air.

I want to close by simply emphasizing the importance of taking time to observe the “footsteps in the snow” in our own lives. Do you feel angry? Hopeless? Confused? Peaceful? Content? Agitated? Is there even space in your life to step back to a place where you can observe and name those things? The first step toward action and intentionality is to observe.

Fellow Pilgrims: May you begin by taking some time today to quiet yourself and observe what has been running just beneath the surface of your life the past 48 hours. May you observe long enough to be able to name some of those things so that you may begin the process of understanding. May your understanding lead you to greater discernment and more life-giving decisions. 

1The Wounding and Healing of Desire: Weaving Heaven and Earth
2Occupy Your Brain: On Power, Knowledge, and the Re-Occupation of Common Sense
Photo credit: Lance Baker [Loc.] Da Nang, Vietnam

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