Okay, as I wrap up this series of “dvd extras” for my book, let me maybe relieve some pressure.
A Queer Calling today has a thoughtful post about talking to teens about celibate vocations. I’ve tried throughout this series to flag some of the problems with the way we–I–often talk about “discerning a vocation.” We can make it sound like vocation is navel-gazing; or like it’s a self-directed quest where you pick which of the million possible paths ahead of you looks best, rather than sticking in the place where you’re rooted. We can forget that we’re often called to things we’re not good at.
And we’re often called to things which seem impossible. If you’re a teenager looking ahead to a life of celibacy I am guessing that feels insane and absurd–and even if we change the conversation to say, “Where are you being called to love and serve?”, it can still seem overwhelming. I’m supposed to pick a path of sacrificial love when I can’t even pass my driving test?
In the book itself I talk about my own process of discernment, and I hope it’s clear that I did not sit down and plan out my life. (I did not plan out anything, really. Future tense is worst tense!) Following your call isn’t about figuring everything out in advance.
For all of our vocations it may help to ask, What is the next right thing? Not the right thing fifty years from now, or the right thing next week, but the right thing right now? Doing the right thing right now may have lifelong repercussions (that second line comes up on the pregnancy test…) and it may mean making promises, such as marriage, which are binding for life. It may mean considering the future.
You don’t have to ask yourself, “Can I really be celibate forever?” You just need to ask, “Can I love in the way God is calling me to love for, like, the next five minutes?” And then in five minutes you do it again. If at any point you know you didn’t do the “next right thing”–if you skipped steps or wandered off the path–then the “next right thing” is to repent and return, teshuvah, come back to Jesus’ breast and His embrace. Over time this becomes a lasting yes to God, an acceptance of vocation (including the call to repentance, which is a part of everyone’s vocation), one five-minute stretch at a time.
Even living out our promises is about doing the next right thing, one next thing after the other.