Unrealistic Desires

Today our writing intern, Nermine, responds to our Autumn Elizabeth’s post about unfulfilled desires. Nermine adds her own wisdom to the subject of desires, and gives us all a new way to look at our desires. 

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

I call myself a positive person; always looking at the big picture, the full half of the cup, the hidden wisdom behind all tragedies. My heart overflows with infinite desires; diverse, contradictory and often times even unrealistic.

I desire a world where harmony and acceptance exist; a place in which people would look beyond how I look or dress, where I come from, or which religion I’m adopting and try to know the real me and accept me the way I am. A world in which truth will not be silenced and injustice will not go unpunished, tolerated or worse accepted.

I desire a world, in which people’s hearts are more tender, more loving and generous, where their words are not painful, but healing and their faces glow and smile with hope and inner peace. A beautiful world of different colors, different tongues, different faiths, all living in harmony without prejudice or judgment.

In this brutal and an unjust world, I try not to lose my faith in goodness, in beauty and in humanity. I have this solid belief, not merely a desire, (which might sound unrealistic for some), that goodness and peace will eventually prevail, that truth, tolerance and justice will find their way back into our veins.

My visions can sound utopian and my desires unrealistic and I know that. I know that this worldly experience is not meant to be easy and trouble-free; that it is meant to be tough and painful to test our perseverance and faith. I know that without hate, love wouldn’t be special and sacred. I believe that we need lies for the truth to be meaningful and that without the tragedies, we won’t appreciate the blessings.

I’m also confident that God never burdens us with what we cannot endure. That’s why I believe that all desires are valid and also possible, even though that there’s no sign to tell me so. I believe in unrealistic desires.

Even if my desires are never fulfilled, I am still thankful, for those moments of peace, love and harmony, no matter how rare and short they are. I’m thankful for the warm hearts that I come across every now and then, which make the coldness and bitterness of the world cease, even if just for a little while. I am glad for the open minds that are willing to listen, to understand and to accept.

Mostly I’m thankful for the heart that still desires, that still hopes for a beautiful world, still trusts in a Generous, Just and Merciful God, and still believes that even though sometimes desires are unfulfilled and prayers unanswered, they are never unheard, and that despite what we lack, and what we still yearn for, we are eternally blessed.

Desires, Sex, and Love

We’re pleased to share another guest post from Esraa Mohamed, who previously wrote When Rituals End. Esraa is an Egyptian Muslim and physical therapy student with strong passion for the universe and its mysteries. Today Esraa raises questions about love and sexual desire, and whether or not they are interrelated interrelate.

“Desires” in the mere sense of the word, are the fundamental motives behind all human actions. There are plenty of desires in this world and they often overlap, one simply leads to another. Yet it is sexual desire that often comes to mind when we hear that word.

Sexual desire in parallel with one’s need to food and water comes at the base of the pyramid yet one’s urge to fulfill that desire has nothing to do with behaving like animals.  Even when I think that I’ve finally reached a verdict in that issue I find that I am, alas, still stuck in the chaotic ground of desire, sex, and love.

Deep inside my rational voice has no problem with sex as a need. You want to have sex? Then go have sex. Yet, I’m wholly perplexed when sex overlaps with love. How do the desire for love and the desire for sex blend together?

Some say there is a huge difference between making love and having sex, some even say that love can’t be reached without involving mutual sexual desires, but I really never got that point. I strongly believe in platonic unconditional love, which excludes sexual desires from the whole equation.

Let’s imagine a hypothetical situation. You fell for somebody, you love every single detail about them and there is no way could you see the world without them. Assuming that at the middle of your way together they no longer fit your needs, Will you give up on them? And if you did. Does it mean that you did not initially love them? That you’ve put the urge of your desires ahead of your love for them?

If I were to answer that question then definitely I wouldn’t give up on them. As long as sexual desire was an extra factor in constructing the love, then its disappearance shouldn’t in anyway ruin the relation. I  want someone to fall in love with my soul, I want to someone who would go on loving me with the same potential when I’m no longer young and beautiful.

So the question is, what are we really talking about when we talk about love? In my opinion love is something much more sacred then simple desires, or the need for sex. Love doesn’t have to be involved with sexual desires. You love someone for their soul, their personality, for the idea of them as a human being.

But in the end, I have more questions than answers. Can love exist without desire? Can desire exist without love? Can sex exist without either one?

As a kid like many others, I too went through an “Oh-No phase”, when I could not believe that my parents actually had desires, had sex, or made love. I remember how puzzling and irritating this phase was, and then at some point I thought I had cleared it all up. Yet it seems like desires, sex, and love are still just as puzzling as they were back then; as soon as the blurry image clears up, something new comes along and fogs it up again.

Desires and Prayers

By: Nermine Mohamed, Writing Intern 2015

Whenever I find my heart overwhelmed with desires; I seek solace in this prayer:

آلَلهُمَ لاَ تُعَلقٌ قَلبىٌ بمٌا لَيْسَ لىٌ واجعَل لىْ فيمْا أُحَب نَصٌيبَ

It means “God, don’t let my heart get attached to what’s not meant for me and make what I love a part of my destiny.”

There are times when I fear that what I desire is not good for me, when desires control me and blind me from what truly matters. Maybe we all have desires that drive us away from God, and maybe too we all have times when we lose hope and our hearts cease to desire anything. I think there are times when we all desire too much and give thanks too little.

So for all of us, and for myself, I pray:

God,

My heart is an open book only to You. You know what I desire.

My knowledge is limited and my sight is short and You know what lies ahead and what’s best for me, make my heart desire what’s good for me.

Help me not to cling to futile hopes and false desires, let my heart see what matters.

Make my desires a road that drives me closer to You and not further away.

Help me find patience when my desires are unfulfilled and my prayers unanswered.

Sow satisfaction and gratitude in my heart.

Help me restrain the anger and disappointment I feel about what I lack and what I cannot get.

Let me be grateful instead for the countless blessings I have and those that perhaps didn’t deserve, for I’m seldom thankful enough.

Let my heart always be full of desires, full of hope, full of love. Let me live and trust in You, in myself and in those around me.

Amen.

Unfulfilled Desires

By: Autumn Elizabeth, Editor in Chief 

The things I have wanted that I don’t have could fill a book. Sometimes it is hard not to look at life as a list of unfulfilled desires: the PhD program that I didn’t get into, the marriage that didn’t work out, the job I didn’t get. Sometimes it seems like my path is strewn with only what I don’t have. Given the current state of the world, I know I am not the only one who has unfulfilled desires, I am not the only one who feels the harsh sting of failure, who has done the hard work of mending a broken heart.

So today, when my head started spiral into that negative space, I pulled out my Bible and began to search for wisdom. Now, while I have several bible copies, some pristine, etched in gold, but the Bible I search through isn’t one of those. It is full of highlighted sections and notes in the margins.  It is bookmarked by prayer cards from every funeral I have ever attended, and mementos from many years of bible study. Often, this Bible simply falls open to a page, which seems as good of a place to start as any.

As it happened, today the Bible fell open to one of my favorite passages:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1

So there it is. The wisdom I have to share today is to simply have faith. I have to keep walking on my spiritual journey, even when things look bleak and when my hopes end up as unfulfilled desires. I have to trust that I am co-creating something beautiful and meaningful with my God, with my comrades, with my lovers, my friends, and my family.  In short, even when desires remain unfulfilled, when prayers seem unanswered, when wishes are not granted, I must have faith…for the bible tells me so.

New Things In The New Year

Happy 2015!

We here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets have some exciting news to announce for the new year!

First of all, we have moved to our own domain, so this means you can now find us at SophiasPockets.com! Everything else remains the same, but this switch will help other people find us more easily, and it means less typing for you!

Second, we are beyond thrilled to introduce the first-ever Searching Sophia’s Pockets Interns: our Writing Intern, Nermine Mohamed, and our Social Media Intern, Will O’Brien!

Nermine, Our Writing Intern

Nermine, Our Writing Intern

Will, Our New Social Media Intern

Will, Our New Social Media Intern

 You may recognize Nermine’s name from such posts as Afraid of Liking Loneliness Too Much and Re-Kindling The Magic In the Ritual. Will is no stranger to Seaching Sophia’s Pockets either as he wrote one of our first guest posts ever, Growing Up Church-ed.

We are very excited to have these two brilliant people share their spiritual journeys with us and with you. Thanks to them you can be on the look out for more posts on Islam and the Middle East, as well as new ways to interact with the Searching Sophia’s Pockets community.

Thanks for joining us for another year of global spiritual journeys!

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

Autumn and Jenni

The Ritual Of The Top Ten

We would be remiss to end this month of exploring the ever-evolving ritual of the “Top Ten”. As 2014 comes to an end we all want to look back at what the year has held. We have selected ten posts, not because they are the best, or the most popular, but because they have represented some important moments from 2014. Even though we have only selected ten, we have been honored by every post and every comment. We hope each of you has found lots of wisdom, love …and even a little lint on your spiritual journey this year. Happy reading and Happy New Year!

  1. A Prayer for New Beginnings— A prayer for anyone starting a new journey
  2. Millennials Strike Back with Professions of Love— A post from Jenni Taylor about the value of Millennials
  3. Ferguson: We Are Praying— A spiritual reaction to the racism in Ferguson and across the USA
  4. Fear Vs Self Worth— A post about bullying by a former Miss Arab America and a notMyKid volunteer
  5. The Choice of Leaving Syria–A post about one woman’s choice to leave her home in Syria.
  6. For the Love of ElephantsJenni Taylor thoughts on justice for all of God’s creatures 
  7. It’s Your Church Too— Patrick Cousins,a campus minister at Saint Louis University, writes about LGBTQ justice
  8. Secular Spirituality: Is That a Thing?–Hailey Kaufman’s eloquent post on atheism and spirituality
  9. Strength To Endure–a reflection on sexism and strength after the shootings in Santa Barbara by Autumn Elizabeth 
  10. Fear and Hunger for Justice–Hafsa Mansoor writes about fear and justice as a Muslim

Seeking Submissions: Hunger

It is November! A time for food, family, and fall! Here at Searching Sophia’s Pockets, November is also the time to talk about hunger. Physical hunger is a humanitarian issue, it is an issue of faith. But although we will highlight ways to fight hunger, like through Heifer International, we are also going to discuss other kinds of hunger, metaphorical hunger, spiritual hunger, hunger for love, acceptance and more.  So we are asking for your submissions on hunger this month.

If you are stuck for where to start your submission, here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. What are you hungry for in this life?
  2. Have you ever fasted? What was it like?
  3. Read Autumn’s post on fasting, and tell us would you fast for Thanksgiving?
  4. How are you fighting physical hunger in this world?

We want to know! The world wants to hear your wisdom!

With Wisdom, Love …and Lint,

Autumn and Jenni

Fear and a Hunger for Justice

We received this post too late to put it in last month, but it is too good not to share. It deals with an issue we have seen here more than once, fear, prejudice and being Muslim. Even though it mostly focuses on last month’s topic of fear, there too is a hunger for justice, for equality, for understanding, that underlies this great post from Hafsa Mansoor.

I’m afraid. A lot. I’m afraid that my faith is the defining characteristic- in the most negative way possible- of who I am. Don’t get me wrong; I am proud to be a Muslim, and I am proud to say that. I’m afraid of what people perceive as my religion. I’m afraid that the actions of ISIS and Al-Qaeda will be what people see as Islam. I’m afraid that the cloth I wear on my head will be interpreted as a sign of oppression and not the choice I made of free will. I’m afraid that the Islam FOX News pastes across headlines is the Islam people will think is the actual truth. I’m afraid people won’t bother trying to learn more about Islam because they think they already know what it is… but too many people don’t. I’m afraid that this all-too-popular perception of my faith will bar me from any political position and I will never be able to make institutional change because of it. I’m afraid every time I go somewhere new that I will be assaulted in a hate crime. I’m afraid the horrible things happening across the nations featuring Muslims- or Sikhs mistaken as Muslims- are not isolated incidents but indicators of a growing problem and misconception. I’m afraid.

But that fear empowers me to make change. It forces me to confront the problems I see in society, not just from a “humanitarian” perspective, but also from a sheer need for self-preservation, and don’t think I’m being dramatic when I say that. I aim to confront bigotry of any kind whenever I encounter it I am emboldened to take measures I would not otherwise I would have the courage to embrace to stop Islamophobia in its tracks- from starting a blog on what Islam is and writing this post to setting up a series of talks at my university about Islam and joining the Webster Muslim Students Association so we can educate, inspire, and empower people.

One of the things that has helped me the most in my journey to courage has been my faith- especially the hijab. Now I know that strikes a lot of people as counterintuitive because a headscarf is seen as so intrinsically oppressive in today’s society. But it’s not. It’s actually extremely empowering. I have such an immense amount of control over what other people see of me and how they view merely because of this cloth I wear on my head. And suddenly I don’t feel like I have to spend immense amounts of time every morning trying to conform to the beauty standards and new hair and clothing trends. I also don’t have to feel like I need to count my appearance as part of my charm and thereby sexualize or objectify myself;. I feel like because I’m willing to hide parts of my exterior, people get the message that it’s because I respect my interior. And it shows.

People tell me that I’m “intense” because I am so purely me and so comfortable with myself. I respect myself and my opinions and feel like I am worth something, and Islam has helped me to reach an accord with myself. The Qur’an has innumerous verses on women’s equality and promoted respect for women at a time when women were ordained second-class citizens and innately inferior to men; Islam championed women and gave them rights and worth as human beings, establishing them as queens over their households and men as mere providers for them. She can work and gain an education if she so desires, but it is for her betterment, not to earn money for her husband; if she earns any money through her career, it is hers to keep; her husband will still have to pay for all the expenses of the household. This is the power and respect Islam gave women- the self-respect Islam gave women.

So when I see on the news the bigotry and hatred, it is Islam that urges me to fight it and strengthens me to be able to make changes and join the cause to end the injustices committed on both sides of the debate, and it is Islam that helps me to conquer my fears and do what needs to be done in spite of any hesitations or insecurities that could hold me back.

A Prayer For Times Of Fear

To Whoever is Listening:

I am afraid. I tremble with fear.
This is not the fear that leaves me in awe of some higher power.
No, I have human fear, personal fear, and it is devastating.
I yearn for something to make me braver.
I know that this something is already inside of me.
Please let me find it soon.

 

I know others who are afraid too.
Some fear for their lives, or the lives of their loved ones.
Some fear making the wrong choice.
Some fear failure.
I pray for them too.
I hope that we can all find something that is bigger than our fears.
If we must be afraid, let us be afraid together, so that together we can overcome our fears.

Amen.

 

Want to share your prayers? Share them with the whole word by submitting to Searching Sophia’s Pockets!

Faith and Fear

By: Autumn Elizabeth

Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget. –Isaiah 54:4

It is often said that if we trust in God, we need not fear. But here’s the thing. I am afraid. I have not forgotten the hard times of my youth. The disappointment of being a millennial looking for a job, the pain of enduring the violence done to my body and psyche, the hopes dashed, the dreams broken, I still feel them all, and it makes me afraid.

I am afraid to make anything permanent, for fear it will be taken away again. I am afraid of showing my passion for justice; for fear that the world will beat it out of me. I do not yearn for confrontation, yet this is what our world gives me. I am afraid that the world will continue to throw away all the lives, black, brown, queer, female, trans*, that don’t matter to those in power.

Yet, I know that for myself, as a follower of the radical Jesus, I cannot let this fear win. Perhaps, that is what all those passages in the bible are about. Maybe when they say “do not be afraid”, they mean “do not let fear own you”.  I cannot stop fear, but I must dare to move beyond it.

I have to dare to co-create a better world side-by-side with the spirit of universal justice. I have to dare to believe that we can all be valued and safe in this world.  I have to dare to show my heart to the people I love, and to show kindness to the people I don’t know.

I have to dare to believe in a better world, because I believe in a loving God, a powerful force that holds every creation dear. I believe in a God that does not victim blame, does not value some lives more than others. I believe in a God that moves with me in this world so that even the smallest acts of service, of change, of care, matter.

Yes, I am afraid. My faith does not erase my fear, but neither does fear annihilate my faith. They walk hand-in-hand with me as I travel through this messy, broken, and beautiful world.