We focus on the loftiness of a vocation when we discern it, in part, I think, because it is more abstract and thus less attached to the actual carrying out of the vocation. It’s easier to say you could love someone forever than to do the practical, tedious, necessary tasks that demonstrate that love. It’s easier to say you love your neighbor than it is to let them play in your yard. It’s easier to want to serve and love mankind made in the Image and Likeness of God than it is to deal with this very human, very broken individual who appears before you.
Too much focus on abstracted serious points can lead to the confusion that so often permeates discernment for Catholics in my age bracket. We want to do it “right.” We want to make “the best choice.” And so we focus on the serious things, which are important. However, when it comes down to discerning a mode of living out your life to help you seek Union with God, Who loves you beyond all compare, our choice can’t be abstracted, because neither God nor we are abstract. He is very personal, very particular, and in order to definitively teach us that He personally loves us and desires our ultimate happiness, the Son assumed to Himself a very concrete Human nature. In this very concrete, truly Human life that Christ lived, we receive a snapshot that itself is full of the “petty, frustrating crap” such as what’s for dinner? who’s in charge of cleaning off the road dust? did anyone here remember to grab wine?
These questions are important questions that ought to be taken seriously. How we respond to them in the context of the choices we are making should influence our discernments by giving us confidence to venture forth to tackle the “serious things” within the context of our vocation. Because, once you know, in the context of a vocation, how to handle the issues like what’s for dinner? and who will pick up the wine?, it is far easier to address the challenges like how can I become a saint? how can I help others to become saints? how do I raise children/minister to the Church/serve Christ in His Members? Those questions are serious ones, precisely because they take a lifetime to work out in all their particularity throughout our own lives. Being confident and secure in our living of the mundane parts of life gives us the support we need to undertake the much more difficult areas we face both in living and in being sanctified.In one sense, it seems that vocational discernment is ultimately about figuring out the context you need to become a saint—with this or that person, living this or that life, uniting with Christ through these or those specifics. For this reason, the “small things” should help us to ground that discernment as we begin to approach the “big things” with fear and trembling. Because, the impact of the big things will reverberate throughout all those mundane, silly, tedious, on-going, wonderful, absurd moments that intertwine to create the holistic activity that is living. Of course, make sure to think and pray about the big stuff. But, while doing so, don’t forget to pause and consider all the small things that shape the vocation you are discerning, things that go beyond if they leave roses by the stairs. While doing so, remind yourself,
“God loves me and wants me to be happy.”
“This is water.”
“This is water.”
*As someone who has never felt called to the religious or consecrated single life and who lacks the requisite being a dude thing to be a priest, the following discussion will primarily be done in terms of the only vocation I have personally considered in any serious light, marriage. However, I’d love to hear other perspectives from across the vocational spectrum, if you care to share.
**Pseudonym. “Because life would be unbearably dull if we had the answers to all our questions.”