Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Discernment...A Mountain I Can't Climb...

I remember when I first heard what I thought was "God calling me". (Well, it wasn't the first time - I had always thought as a child that I'd be a pastor. But life and love happened along the way, and I hadn't heard - or paid attention to - that calling for nearly 20 years.) I was driving down the road one day, and said outloud, "Gee - I could be a monk like Thomas Merton." The first thought I had was - "Um... Alan... why aren't you laughing your bumpkus off at an idea like that?" THAT's what I noticed first... that the idea wasn't nearly as strange to me as it should have been.

The idea wasn't just a passing thought. It didn't go away. The next morning when I woke up, it was there. It followed me around for days. "What should I do with this?" I wondered. Nothing. Do nothing. This is just... I don't know what this is. Just let it pass. So that's what I did.

Days. A week. Two weeks. It was still there. This "crazy" idea. So, I had to figure out what to do with this idea. I thought about it. Prayed about it. (Although, my prayer wasn't anything close to a model prayer. It was more like, "God - how do I get rid of this crazy idea?") And I decided - more delay. Just sit with it. I won't do anything with it for six months. I'll just let it be. Surely after six months, it will be gone. But, if for some strange reason it isn't, I'll figure out what to do with it then.

A month. Two months. A quarter. Half a year. The idea was still there. I still heard this voice saying, "Um - Alan. You know - you COULD be a monk or a priest." I didn't know who's voice it was. Was it mine? Was it God? Was I going loopy? Was I running from life? Was the voice a reaction to difficulties my loved ones were experiencing?

But, the time had come - I had given myself six months. Now I needed to figure out what to do with this voice.

Notice anything quite odd about all this so far? Yeah - I didn't notice anything odd about it at the time either. It's only in looking back, and in my prayer time these days, that I'm beginning to see one big adjustment that had to be made along the way. (Thank God for Spiritual Directors!)

Here's a hint - ask yourself this question. For me in what I've described above, who's job was it to deal with this "voice" I was hearing? Where was I placing the responsibility for "figuring all of this out"?

When I first began on this journey, I thought this was something I needed to figure out. I. Me. I will. I can. I need to. Me. Mine. My mind. My thought. All me. Where was God? Sure, I was fooling myself that I was praying about this. But, in my prayer, I was telling God what I wanted Him to do so that I could figure this out. I was sending Him "directions" - as if He needs MY directions. Ha!

Bebo Normas has a song that's on the Christian radio these days, "I Will Lift My Eyes". Here are the lyrics:

God, my God, I cry out
Your beloved needs You now
God, be near, calm my fear
And take my doubt

Your kindness is what pulls me up
Your love is all that draws me in

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer
Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You

God, my God, let Mercy sing
Her melody over me
God, right here all I bring
Is all of me

Cause You are and You were and
You will be forever
The Lover I need to save me
Cause You fashioned the earth and
You hold it together, God
So hold me now

I will lift my eyes to the Maker
Of the mountains I can't climb
I will lift my eyes to the Calmer

Of the oceans raging wild
I will lift my eyes to the Healer
Of the hurt I hold inside
I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You


Discerning God's call for my life is not something I can do. It's a mountain I can't climb. Why? Because its not just about me. It's about my relationship with God. It's not a "me" thing. It's a "we" thing. God and me. And the church. And more.

When I was first confronted with this idea - this concept that "discernment" was less about me having to figure it all out, and more about me loving and trusting God more deeply, entering into a deeper relationship with Him, and letting go of any preconceived ideas, outcomes - or even any questions - it was a bit unsettling. I started all of this trying to figure out what I/Me/Mine needed to do to conjure up a burning bush that would answer the question I was asking. Somewhere along the way, I had to let go. I had to begin to just be who and where I was, still asking my questions, but being open to whatever answers came, even when those answers seemed to point in directions completely unrelated to the "priesthood" question.

As I prepare to enter into this Lenten season, I am amazed and awed at the wonder, and love and grace of the God I am coming to know more and more each day. Truly, as I pray, "I will lift my eyes to the Maker of this mountain I can't climb."

If I could have "figured this out" on my own, I wouldn't have experienced the grace and love and care that comes from trusting God to start climbing the mountain with and for me.

Wherever you are on your discernment journey - asking questions about priesthood, religious life, marriage, children, work, life, love - its all about discerning, isn't it? Wherever you are, trust that just because it feels like its a mountain YOU can't climb, God will climb it with you. And, in letting go and letting Him, the journey will lead where it should.

1 comment:

Tom Gibbons said...

Hey, I just found your blog... I really enjoyed this post. And I really appreciate the honesty - sometimes I forget that God is with me on this and I needs the reminding!