Lately, I have been discerning, or trying to discern God's will. Life lately has been at turns wild, bewildering, exciting, terrifying, depressing, filled with hope, filled with despair. Sometimes, it's all these things all at once.
That's to be expected when life throws disappointment at you. I would think that is a universal experience. Maybe not. In any event, it's what I typically experience in such times, and I've experienced in my life a lot of terrible disappointments -- many of my own doing -- that have left me with so many unanswerable whys. (To be sure, I have had, have, and will have many untold blessings; sadly, however, it's easy, so unbelievably easy to lose sight of those. I need to work on that on counting those and giving thanks for them.)
The cure to the disappointment is to give up asking "Why?" to give up the pride that forms the soil in which that question grows. However, the injustice that planted the Why's seed burns and propels, compels me to pursue, relentlessly pursue, relentlessly pursue an answer, like a mongoose chasing down a rat.
It is an answer that will most likely never come or that is here and simply cannot face, and its continued presence is a recipe for insanity. And the question, really, is not, "Why?" After 35 years, I have realized that just this moment. The question is not, "Why did this happen to me?" At least not so much.
The question really is "Why did no one love me? Why was I bullied? Why was I rejected and ignored? Why was I so often left to my own devices?" And at the heart of those questions are others too terrible to imagine, that are even more horrifying to contemplate, like the visage of a demon that manifests itself and is more chilling and frightening than any description had prepared you for: "What about me was unlovable? Am I unlovable?"
And the answer is yes. Or, rather, no. I am lovable. Maybe not by people (my wife tells me--frequently, in fact--that people find me tiresome, intimidating, imposing, and that I often lack certain social skills, and, no doubt, there is some truth in that), but by God.
Thus, my worth does not come from what kids did to me in Third Grade (or Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Twelth, and at university). What I feel is my parents' abandonment of me (they and my good sister, who I love and idolize, might disagree) does not determine whether I am worthy or lovable . My worth is not relected in my depressingly spotty employment history (putting the best spin on it).
No, my worth comes from one place and one place alone: I am a child of God, His adopted son. Had I been the only person to have ever sinned, and if I was the last person who ever would have sinned, there still would have been a Christmas morning. There still would have been an Easter Sunday.
For He loved me so much, that He sent His only begotten Son into the world to redeem my sins (cf., John 3:15). He created me in His likeness (cf. Gen 1:20-29) and destined me for eternal relationship with His triune majesty, the only analogy for which that is adequate here on earth is the spousal relationship. He wants to relate with me, love me, enfold me to that degree. He is, as the title of that fantastic book puts it, This Tremendous Lover.
He knew me before I was formed in the womb (cf. Jer 1:5). He chose me in Him before the foundation of the world that I should be holy and blameless before Him (i.e., consecrated/set apart and unblemished). He knows the plans He has for me, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give me a future and a hope (cf., Jer 29:11).
The point of all this reflection, which has taken a huge turn down the road I intended to go, is several fold.
First, I know but had not remembered, God's will is not to be discerned amongst the moment as if one is finding one's way through a dense, dense fog. God's will is the moment. As painful as that moment may be, He has "plans for welfare and not evil, to give you a future and a hope." He works everything -- not some things, not most things, not many things, but everything -- to the good (cf., Rom 8:28). So I need to pray to be faithful in this moment. When I'm so frenzied in wanting to accomplish all I believe I need to, prayer period ... it's tempting to make it an afterthought (sorta like, "Oops! I could've had a V-8!".).
Second, my prayer should have been less, "Lord, what is Your will?" (in fact, given the above, it should not have been that at all) and more, "Lord, where do You want me to go?"
Here's a quote from a wonderful book by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, titled Discerning the Will of God:
"To do Your will is my delight." These words of Psalm 40 [click it: It's not what you think] express the deep desire of Jesus' heart: to do the will of the Father by Whom He knows Himself loved (cf., John 5:20; Heb 10:5-10). They also express the deepest desire of every human heart rooted in the foundational truths described [i.e., the discovery of faith, joy-filled encounter with God, continuing relationship with God, and desire to respond to God, and through this experiencing the joy of freely responding to God --- the joy of doing God's will.].With this in mind, I came home from Mass today (I only mention that I went to Mass because I don't believe these reflections would have come to my heart if I hadn't; maybe by this point, you're cursing the fact that I did). I put my elbows on my desk, folded my hands, closed my eyes, and asked God, "Do you want me to do X?" Before I got to "to," the answer spread through my consciousness like food coloring in water: "Yes."
I've resited doing X for almost 20 years because it could never make me a lot of money. I grew up financially comfortable. I want to be comfortable myself. Hell, let's be honest: I want to be rich. I want to be independently wealthy. I have my persecuted, enslaved children in Pakistant. There's the pirate radio station I want to put in Korea. I want to create. I want that so I can travel and study and fill my boundless curiousity. I want to have the endless freedom wealth brings to write and research and think and create.
And maybe God wants that, too. Someday. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe a few years from now. Maybe never. But I have to trust He knows me better than me, that He knows better than me period, and right now, He seems to be asking me to do X. When I think of doing X, I have peace.
As Fr. Gallagher writes, "... the human will thirsts for that communion with the divine will, which is mutual love --- the love for which we are made, and which, as Augustine says, alone gives rest to our restless hearts.
Mind you: It's not what I want to do. I don't. I like X, love it even, but I don't want to do it. There are too many obstacles standing in the way. Mostly, I don't want to endure the privations that will inevitably come from having to do what's necessary to make X happen. If I could forego the hoops and get paid based on my experience in the workforce, I'd do it tomorrow. That's not going to happen, so I think, "Ehhhh, why bother? Got a family to support. Wanna take a trip with the kids this Spring or summer. Yada yada yada."
God, however, has been around forever. He's a lot smarter than me. And there's that whole "plan for welfare and not for evil" thing I need to keep remembering.
I'll close with an awesome, soul-lifting quote by Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman:
I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has.... God knows me and calls me by name.Be well, my friends, and may you really come to feel how immersed you are in God's love, care, and compassion. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). And let us, as this piece does, praise God for His boundless mercy and sacrificial, saving Love poured out for us on the cross.