“What do you want?”
This is one of the questions Donald Miller asks at Storyline, which I just attended for the second year in a row in Chicago.
If you stop and think about it, it really is a doozy of a question.
Last year, while attending my first Storyline conference, this question was a major hangup for me. It required me to be brutally honest with myself. It required me to deal with shame, and ask for things I didn’t think I deserved. It was incredibly challenging.
The truth was, what I wanted was a different life. For over a year, these were words my husband heard me repeat over and over. He knew I wasn’t discontent — it wasn’t about that. I was incredibly happy in the present moment with our home, our family, and our lives. But he knew I wanted better for our marriage, our kids, and our family.
And in our case, better meant different.
Our house didn’t really hold enough guests. Our kitchen wasn’t really functional for the life we wanted to live and the hospitality we wanted to offer folks.
Our kids weren’t really getting the education we wanted them to. We didn’t want it to be traditional — we wanted it to be very different. But we weren’t sure what different looked like — we honestly just didn’t know.
We knew we didn’t have a community. After eight years of marriage, we still hadn’t landed on a church that provided the kind of community we wanted.
And we both had career dreams.
We left that first Storyline conference inspired.
It had been a great time for us to connect. It was great for our marriage, standing in as the one weekend that year we’d had away, with just each other.
After the conference, we played around with the idea of selling our house, but knew it wasn’t the time, and didn’t feel called to make a move on listing it. We decorated our home for Christmas, enjoyed the holidays, and then, early that next year, it hit.
We started to feel like maybe it would be time to move.
It was in February, after a couple’s event in Tulsa, that we took a detour and drove to a charming little new rural neighborhood on our way home. I’d been there twice before, but David had only heard me talk about it. As we turned the corner and pulled into the small, sparkly, four-year-old town, a man in tortoise-shell glasses made his way across the median to greet us. He waved.
“I want to live here,” David said. Words that changed our life.
From that moment forward, the wheels were in motion. We didn’t know it yet, but choice after choice led us down a road that we couldn’t yet see the end of. We had no idea where this journey would take us, but we knew we had to keep going down the path.
We put our house in Oklahoma City on the market. Our house sold in three days, and by May first, we had moved into a rental home in Carlton Landing. The first night in that home, I told David that I couldn’t believe we were there. I couldn’t believe we had made all the crazy, impractical choices and there we lay, on a mattress on hardwood floors, in the most charming rental house you could ever imagine, with the most amazing new neighbors we could possibly dream up.
This weekend we sat again at Storyline, and I found myself asking the same question, challenged again by Don.
What do I want?
And how is it that, a year later, I sit here again, and I have what I wanted? Isn’t that enough, or do I really need to ask the question again, and be honest with myself again?
Maybe I want to chase this untraditional education thing for my kids harder. Maybe I want them to start traveling with me.
Maybe I want to write a book. Or ten. Maybe I want to sort my thoughts out by writing them down and processing them “out loud” in written form.
Maybe I want to host a retreat in our home. Maybe I want to be a better cook and have more people over for dinner and invite people in and just let it be a revolving door.
Clearly there are still more desires down in my heart.
When I’m honest with myself in engaging that question — What do I want? — it surprises me that there seems to be a bottomless pit of answers. But maybe that’s a good thing.
It’s not about feeling discontent or unhappy. It’s about reaching for more, digging deeper, growing stronger.
So I want to pose the question as a challenge to you, just as it was presented to me a year ago. What do you want?
If you take some time to really think about it, you might find that your answer sets the course for this next season of your life. You might just find yourself a year from now having achieved what you wanted. But it all has to start with identifying and acknowledging it. So…