I’ve been thinking a lot about the desires of my heart. David once cooed, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Proverbs 37:4). “May he give you the desires of your heart,” he prays in Psalm 20:4. Thanks David! Since that got recorded for all mankind, you didn’t know it, but you were praying for me!

I’ll take it.

But what, exactly, was he praying about? Not just wanting things, or even enjoying them. And notice that the first verse is plural. Desires. The second is singular. Desire. Here’s what I’m thinking.

I’m thinking that THE desire of my heart (singular) is a unique and powerful mystery woven artfully into my spiritual DNA, something in particular God wants me to want, because wanting it will be the key to me becoming who I’m called to be and will help him guide my life and catalyze that process of becoming. In that sense, it’s more than a want, it’s where want marries need and will and becomes destiny. Denying your heart’s desire is like starving yourself to death. And from this one desire spring a second set, another ring. You could say that our heart’s desire finds feet in several lesser (but important) expressions. Desires, plural.

Here’s the trick: I’m not even sure we can define that one, central desire any more than we could truly define eternity or God himself. You might say that our true heart’s desire is God himself. And I’ll give you that. But I’m sensing something more specific built on that truth, something more unique to each person—maybe the way I in particular want God, not just the way all humanity wants him. This one thing and wanting it the way I want it is what makes me Brad, what makes you, you. And God loves it that way.

Speaking personally, my second ring is made up of deep desires to create, to explore, to love. Listen: This ring will never be made of achievements or milestones: Like, “Getting married” or “Writing a book” or “Climbing Everest.” As God said to me yesterday, “Your heart’s desire is not so trivial that I can hand it to you in a weekend.” It will take a lifetime. Maybe more. This ring is more about a lifestyle than a specific moment.

And then there is a third ring of heart’s desires, and these really are made of moments and achievements and milestones. My desire to create locks onto wanting to write a book that people love. Your desire to help others becomes a coffee time where you lead your neighbor to Christ. But I shouldn’t mistake the book for what I really want. It’s only in the third ring. Why do I want it? And even though I may never quite nail it down, why do I want to create?

I sense something grand churning wistfully beneath that question, elusive, coy, and wonderful. And as I look, I notice God standing with me, smiling, winking, encouraging me. “Go on,” he says paternally, gently, firmly.

Oh God, show me how!

And help me shun the fourth ring, where most people live, settling for even the wrong moments, empty achievements, petty milestones. It’s far too easy to misinterpret what our best pursuits ought to be or even mistake them for our one central desire. When that happens, we make them into gods and idols and become bent towards the desire. They become deceitful and addictive, and they can corrupt or even destroy us.