It’s hard for many to find joy when trying to discern God’s “will” for our lives. We become frustrated when clarity does not come easily or we become paralysed and end up avoiding making a decision. And so we end up stagnant, even though God yearns for us to journey toward the person we’ve been made to be, our True Selves.
A primary way God communicates who this True Self is, is through our heart’s desires – the deep desires within us that are at the core of our being and identity. For me, I could name things like a desire to be a good father, a desire to love others compassionately, a desire even to write things that will touch the lives of others. God sees our gifts and abilities and plants desires within us that align with those things. Ignatius believed that these true and good desires of our hearts were God’s desires, too. You could even phrase the question as, What are the dreams I have for my life?
I often find that Disney’s spirit of dreams speaks well to the Ignatian understanding of the desires of our heart. The music from Walt Disney World’s Happily Ever After fireworks spectacular offers lyrics that uncover the joy of discernment. The intro to the show begins like this:
Each of us has a dream, a heart’s desire. It calls to us. And when we’re brave enough to listen, and bold enough to pursue, that dream will lead us on a journey to discover who we’re meant to be. All we have to do is look inside our hearts…
The dream is not our own. We do not manufacture it. It resides in our heart, placed there by God, calling to us. But we need to listen. Too many don’t truly listen to the movements of their heart. It requires a braveness and boldness to listen and even take action. And all of this is in service of discovering who God made us to be.
Ready to begin, let the wonder take hold
Feel it draw you in, watch the moment unfold
Spark a dream that we’re meant to follow
While Disney doesn’t present this idea of dreams and desires as God-ordained, there is an acknowledgement that it comes from elsewhere and invites us to listen. There’s a hopefulness in dreaming. For Christians our hope is in God who offers new beginnings, new resurrections. So much of Disney stories are about responding to the call of our dreams, overcoming our fears, and pursuing them. This is also the path of discernment. It takes courage to pay attention to God’s voice within, to notice our gifts, our desires, and the things that lead us toward God and toward the person we’ve been created to be.
Every step we take, brings a new hope, a new day
Every choice we make helps us find our own way
Every choice we make helps us find our own way… Each decision, sincerely discerned, should lead us closer to being our fullest and truest selves in God. Desire is essential to our human dignity.
But there’s another element at play in Disney’s music and stories, the idea of happily ever after. On the surface it can have the superficial appearance of perfection or an eternity of comfort. But think about how “kingdom-oriented” it is. Fairy tales often use the image a kingdom to show readers what kinds of kingdoms are not life-giving to its inhabitants, and also what an ideal kingdom might be. This may be a helpful metaphor of the Christian understanding of God’s kingdom, which Jesus offers glimpses of through his ministry of healing, love, and compassion. As Jesus seeks to make people whole, to become their True Selves, the Kingdom also has this goal. The “happily ever after” is the final—and joyful—discovery of one’s True Self. Note that the True Self in God is not about inward focus or ego, but about union with God and all creation. It’s about using our gifts for the good of the Kingdom. Our dreams and desires should ultimately point us toward that.
Now we’re on our way
Leave your fears behind us
Not so far away from the dreams that live inside us
I often find that Disney uncovers glimpses of the truth of what it means to be human: the struggle, the joys, the heartache, the celebrations, the discovery. Fear often holds us back from joyfully journeying and exploring the desires and dreams God places in our hearts.
The battles, the stories, the losses and all the glories
We’re changed by the way we live every day
Just look up and reach to the sky
The fireworks conclude, calling us to “Reach out and find your happily ever after.” It’s almost like a dismissal from Mass: go and live the Gospel, be Kingdom-oriented, be who God made you to be!
- The Discernment of Spirits
- Can God share my desires and not fulfil them?
- “Desire is Thoughtcrime”
- More on desire
Listen to the podcast version of this post on the episode page, especially if the player below doesn’t work.