The phrase, which became the title of this inspirational piece, came to me during a recent conversation. The person with whom I was conversing periodically was talking about wishing for this or for that. As I listened to her, I realized that wishing for certain things was a way she expressed hope. For example, I am sure at one point she must have said something like, “I wish I can have some kids.” Translated that would have meant that she planned to have kids…and did have them.
In many ways I can relate to that. I suspect I am not unusual in saying that I have spent a lifetime wanting certain things. When I was a kid, I wanted to play sports and, of course, wanted to be good. I did get to play sports, but I was average at best. I would have to confess I wanted to date certain girls and sometimes got what I wanted. Other times I got a flat “No!” That was disappointing, but it didn’t kill me. I suppose most of us realize we don’t get everything we want. “That’s life,” goes the saying.
The next realization I had was to be sure that often people do not even know for sure what they want. Of course, most of us have multiple wants. And that is legitimate. I want many things for my kids and, now, for my grandkids. That seems quite normal. In this case having these kinds of wants is tantamount to saying that I “hope” these things are true for the kids.
I would like to take this to another level. I would like to think about it in a spiritual way. For me spirituality is one significant way people make meaning in life. Of course, there are other ways to make meaning. In many ways meaning is relative. What you find meaningful, I might not find meaningful at all. It does not make you right and me wrong. It simply means we are different.
When we use the phrase, “when you get what you want,” we have two things involved. The first is obvious: what we want. The second piece is the timing piece: when we get what we want. Clearly, this assumes there are things we want and that we will get it or them. Wanting things is not magical. Very often, we work for the things we want. And that is quite good and respectable.
Again, to bring in the spiritual dimension into the picture, what we want would be meaningful or would bring meaning. Let me get concrete. There are many things people want and, even, work hard to get that ultimately may not be very meaningful. For example, I know some folks who wanted to be rich. And they worked hard and made it happen. Materially, they had a very easy life. But that may or may not be meaningful.
We can generalize and say that it is very easy to work hard to get some of the things we want. And then we get them and we realize we don’t actually want them that badly. Or we find out that getting what we wanted turns out to be unsatisfying. We can turn out to be disappointed with what we thought we wanted. I have had this experience more than once. At one level, it is unbelievable. It is unbelievable to want something, get it and then be disappointed now that we have it.
This is where it connects to the spiritual. If what I want is spiritual, then it means it will be inherently meaningful. And this means that when I get what I want, I will get something meaningful. And that will be satisfying. Again, I can relate personally to this process. For example, I have wanted to do in life what I discerned to be God’s desire for me. If I could know and do that, then it would be inherently meaningful because I would be in good relationship with the Holy One. If this is true, then nothing else matters as much.
This knowing leads me to add one more aspect to the original phrase. The original phrase said, “when you get what you want.” Of course, that is simply a phrase. It is not even a sentence. In fact, it is a conditional phrase. The conditional word is “when.” The conditional phrase begs for completion. And here is how I complete it: “When you get what you want, make sure it is what you want!”
“Make sure it is what you want” is a different way of saying to make your deepest want a spiritual want. If what you want is an authentic, spiritual want, then God will give you what you want. And if it is a spiritual want, then when we get what we want, we truly will want it. It will be meaningful. It will be satisfying. It will fit me.
Again to be personal, if my desire is to know and to do God’s desire for me, then I am bound to be satisfied and content with getting what I want. It may sound complicated, but it is actually simple. There are a million things people can want. But not everything we want is the same level. At the deeper, spiritual level, our want is important for our lives. At this level, when you get what you want, make sure it is what you want.