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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Discernment or Vocation Avoidance?

Every so often I have to post on vocational discernment because it's one of the reasons I founded my blog.

A little over a year ago, I heard a "call" from the Lord, and I dove into that just as I dove into everything else in my life, but at the same time I realized that my past diving cannot serve as experience for vocation diving. And so I entered the discernment process, which first involves prayer and direction before diving. The waters of discernment are deep, and I really wasn't sure I could swim enough to keep from hitting my fool head on the only rock in the entire discernmental ocean.

So much to my frustration, I learned that just because the Lord was calling me to greater union with Him did not mean he was going to show me the way so easily. This was not going to be a matter of physical training or academic success, or a combination of the two; no, this was different. And for awhile, the Lord gifted me with a Spiritual Director, who helped me take the first step for my journey...understanding when my Shepherd is speaking to me. Learning to listen and to trust.

I could not get enough time before the Blessed Sacrament, and last spring/summer, I really needed that, so I went to adoration nearly every day, morning, nood, and night. I still look back on the words that came to me while I prayed before Jesus Christ himself, and I am humbled by the graces he gave me, and the direction he himself provided.

Yet I still drifted somewhat, or perhaps he called me to different types of devotion. After awhile, work became so busy that I was not able to go to the Adoration Chapel over my lunch breaks as I had becomed accustomed to doing...because I was too busy to take a break. Occasionally I would be hit with an especially difficult problem and so I went to Jesus to ask for help, or insight, or strength. Or simply that His will be done. And Jesus got me through those times. Since I couldn't go to the Chapel, I carried a crucifix and when I was in the depths of my struggles, I pulled it out and I looked at Jesus, and even if for only a moment, I considered what He had done for us, and I was able to get through my tasks.

Here I am, now, over a year later. I've learned much in the last year, academically, because I have been able to read and reflect a lot and spiritually, because God is good. I did speak with a couple of religious communities, but I have not done any visits. It seemed that every time I had planned to attend something, I was not able to pay for the trip (to Michigan, for example to visit Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist), or attend a local retreat, etc. I have a house, and I have dogs, and so it's not easy to get away to do these things.

I came to realize that my previous attitude of driving myself to success at any cost does not work with God; he works on His time, not mine. I realized that initially, I was panicking because I am 31 and so many of the good communities have a cutoff of 30 and I've missed the boat. At some point in that early frenzy, I understood that if I am meant to be somewhere, God will draw me to that place, and so I stopped my spiritual headlong rushing and gave it over to God.

Now, here I am, still having no idea what I'm supposed to do. I no longer think I am called to religious life, although I consider this with an admitted twinge of sadness. But I've had to seek my motivations. All my life, I did the right things for the wrong reasons, and somethimes the wrong things for the right reasons. And over and over, I have crashed and burned. God has given me everything I ever wanted, even when He knew that there was nothing but disaster lying in wait for me. But he indulged my impertinence, my willfulness, and he kept His divine hand over me. I've been amazed at the protection the Lord has provided me over the years.

But I don't think he's calling me to that life. I'm not sure he's calling me to marriage, either. I'm not sure if I want children, and certainly I should not get married if I don't want children. Yet, I have realized that if I marry and God gives me children, I will embrace them with the very love of Christ and the love of the Blessed Mother for Christ, and I will somehow get them into heaven. Such is the order God wills for us. Sometimes this appeals to me, and sometimes it does not. Sometimes the religious life appeals to me, especially when I consider the peacefulness of prayer and the nearness to our Lord. And yet sometimes I cringe at the though of living the life of a religious.

I am somewhere in the middle, having been chosen by neither and having actually chosen neither. For now, I am single for the sake of God's kingdom, and perhaps this is where He wants me for life. Perhaps God has something waiting around the corner, which is often the case.

I have resigned myself to His will...I can do nothing without God. I am tired of making demands for Him to fulfill, only to find out my demands were nothing but capricious folly. I am tired of searching for something that does not belong to me. I am tired of seeking things others want me to seek or think I should seek, and now, I just want what God wills for me.

This is a difficult place within which to reside. I have been stripped of professional goals...where I used to be driven, now I have seemed to have stagnated. I used to see a future for myself in my present postion, but as of about a year ago, I no longer want that future and yet I don't know where to turn for the next step. I dream of solitude, and the time to write and to dedicate myself to God and to writing, yet I cannot do this as long as I have bills to pay. Sometimes I just want to get rid of everything I own so as to have the freedom to exist as God desires, but I realize that so often these twinges are out of selfishness, not selflessness.

Now I have to make myself content to depend upon God's will for he has brought me to a type of desert in which my past is useless with regard to my future, and I can see no future for myself other than the presence of God and God alone. I don't know what He wants of me, and so maybe in the last year I have come to nothing. Have I squandered my time? Am I a "Sister of Perpetual Discernment"? Or am I simply a woman finally ready to accept the Lord on his terms and not my own?

Only time will tell. God will reveal himself when He desires, and until then, it is my place to continue to pray, to continue to worship, to continue to seek holiness in the simplicity of life without worrying about career advancement, the house, the bills, the next hobby, the next vacation or the next anything. It is time to learn to trust in the providence of God, and boy, is that a big step.

I haven't decided if I am avoiding a vocation and justifying it to myself, because sometimes I just don't want to be a Sister or Nun. Maybe I would have the same feelings if I was about to be married. I may never know.

So for now, I am simply myself, and hopefully becoming the woman God wants me to be, whether as His Spouse, a spouse on earth, or a single woman living for Him.

This desert is a difficult place, but I think it must be necessary or I would not be experiencing it. I'm sure that many have been in this place and know exactly what I'm talking about. If I am to work on patience, then so be it for I am an impatient person. God knows my flaws and where I need work, and I have come to realize that I am not ready, in one way or another, to committ to any particular vocation. I am a spiritual late bloomer, yet a tenacious dandelion in the world.

Guess I'll just keep spending time on my knees, and maybe, someday, I'll figure out what God expects of me.

God bless you all, and please offer prayers that the Lord calls more to His vineyard...although I am not asking you to pray that I am one of them. I am asking that we all pray, together, that God's will be done in everything.

Amen

4 comments:

DilexitPrior said...

Thank-you for this honest and sincere insight into your struggles with discernment. I am ten years behind you (at least chronologically in terms of age) but struggling with many of the same questions. I know it's a call I need to test, but whether or not religious life is my vocation in the end is another question altogether. Please keep me in your prayers.

Adoro Te Devote said...

Thank you for commenting. I'm glad my post was helpful to you. I also have read of struggles of others in discerment at varying points on their jorneys, and always they have helped me as well.

I will certainly keep you in my prayers! God bless you!

Ma Beck said...

Oh, honey.
That was a beautiful post.
Don't ever not go to a community due to lack of funds.
That's what the orthodox Roman Catholic community is here for - to help
each other out. Especially if we're going to get a nun out of the deal. :)
Ask, and you shall receive.

By the way, Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist is the community to which
the sister of two of our religious brothers at SSJC belongs. (I just reread that sentence. It reads like
one of those 'Mindbenders': The only son of my grandfather's only child is what relation to me?")
They're a lovely group of women.
But you already know that. ;)

Jman said...

Just be patient. If God wants to let you know where he wants you he'll let you know. But you still have so much growing to do, things will wax and wan. Just be humble and open. Sure you make plenty of mistakes, but do you think if you had a child such as yourself, you could do nothing but smile as you'd see her progress and grow, even if she stumbles and scraps her knee.