Two seminarians from my diocese, who will be ordained this year, gratiously invited me to visit them at the seminary I've learned that our Bishop has decided would be his choice for me this coming August, St. Meinrad. I was very excited to take this next step, as it were, and get a glimpse into the seminary itself, and the life of a seminarian a bit more firsthand.
Over the couple of days that I was there, I experienced and felt many things. I'm sure in the weeks to come, as I continue to reflect on my journey, more about the visit will come out here.
Today, I'm left remembering a moment of feeling overwhelmed. Over the past two years, I've contemplated "the seminary" and "seminary life" many times. Different aspects of what it would mean, how it would be different. Looking back, I see one of the benefits of "contemplating" such things is that we can neatly take one piece of it off the shelf, so to speak, at a time. We can work with that one aspect of it for a bit, get comfortable with it, pray about it, ask God to work in our hearts with that one thing. And then put it back on the shelf, ready to repeat the exercise with some other aspect.
I arrived at the seminary on Thursday evening, and was quickly "swept" into the visit. A visit with the priest/Benedictine monk who is Director of Enrollment. Shown to my room. Twists and turns around the halls and grounds. Down to the student hang out for a beer and a pizza. And then back to my room for the evening. I enjoyed all of that.
But then, 5 minutes after coming to rest in my room for the evening, I realized all of a sudden that I was feeling overwhelmed. I asked God out loud, "God - can I do this? This is SO different. It's been so VERY long since I've felt like a fish out of water."
For about 20 minutes, I felt utterly overwhelmed. The voices of doubt were rumbling. (See, Alan, you can't do this. God isn't making this easy enough for you. You'll never survive 6 years of this after all the time you've lived on your own.) Blah - blah - blah - blah. I needed to pray. And so I did.
You know - its funny. Every time I am able to "let go" of whatever I'm feeling, and give it to God, it very quickly begins to be less unmanageable for me. Less overwhelming. No, I don't have to hide from feeling overwhelmed. I can let it be what it is. But when I quit trying to handle it all on my own and say, "OK God - its me again. Here's where I am. Here's how I'm feeling. What do we do with this?" I get an answer that's what I need. "It's OK. I love you. Just trust me, follow me. That's all I need from you right now. Trust. Follow. If you can do that, I promise you I'll take you where we need to go."
This wasn't the first moment I've felt overwhelmed in the discernment journey. It probably won't be the last. It may have been the most "present" experience with feeling overwhelmed that I've had so far. And you know what I left that experience with? Peace. And lots of it.
I have effort to make. God willing, part of that effort includes enrolling as a Seminarian at St. Meinrad this August. And with that will come "sliming down" to live in a dorm room. Attending class again as a full time student. Letting go of a salary. Trusting God for my material needs. Joining into a rhythm of prayer, study, fellowship, and formation as a member of the seminary community. But, that's all just effort. My part of the work.
If I'm faithful to my part of the effort, I can trust that God Himself, through the seminary and His own working and forming in my life, will create the outcome that is right. Whatever that outcome may be.
Focusing on effort, letting go of outcome - these things bring so very much...peace.