Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Which Way Do I Go?

I will never forget February 28, 1998. That's the day I got in my old Chevy Eurosport wagon with the sweet rims and starting driving, without a clue as to where I was going...

I had just spent 4 years in the seminary; steeped in the Church's rich liturgy, intoxicated by the beauty of prayer, captivated by the teachings of the Catholic Church, discovering brothers in the spirit I never knew I had, from Allentown to Peoria, Alabama to Nebraska, and it was a period of the deepest peace for my restless spirit. I had just earned a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy, and was at the half way point, still a couple years from ordination, when suddenly the bells of peace stopped peeling, and the certainty of seminary life dissipated like incense at evening prayer.

I had always believed that I was in the right place at the right time; that God had surely led me to this place of discernment, and that like Peter on the mountaintop I could say it was truly "good for me to be here." But the end of the seminary, the goal of ordination, was always a little foggy for me. "No worries," I thought to myself (and shared with my spiritual director); "God will lead me then as He is now and always has." And this was affirmed. Isn't it supposed to be like that after all, a daily walk, a day by day as the song goes? We pray every day, "give us this day our daily bread"? But this way is actually harder than it sounds, especially for our culture today, so consumed with having financial security, stability, insurance, overdraft protection! et cetera! The daily bread prayer says don't worry about tomorrow, tomorrow has troubles of it's own (see Matthew 6:26).

God's ways are not our ways, His plans are not the blueprints we would have drafted. His timing is perfect, but it seems our watches just can't sync up with that Divine Clock! After 6 months of prayer, more discernment, spiritual direction, and the advice of good friends, I drove away from the seminary into an unknown future. And I remember looking back and saying "I was born there." That's how good God was to me in that place of community, prayer, and study. And I would suggest to any man who feels the pull to a possible vocation to listen and respond. Who knows where God will lead you?

The daily mass readings this week have been spotlighting our man Abraham. There have been boatloads written about this patriarch, the father of faith. I love Abraham. It was in the midst of my clouds and troubles about leaving the seminary that I first understood just how heroic Abraham really was. Providentially, we were studying Genesis and Abraham's story in one of my graduate courses in the late winter of 1998. Here's a guy who had it all: "Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold." He was quite cozy in the town of Ur and was actually ready for retirement by our standards. Then it got a little foggy for Abe....

The LORD said to Abram: “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

The seminary had become a home to me, a place of deep peace and comfort. This should have been the first sign. The seminary is a transitional place, a garden where you grow, but where you must also be uprooted and transplanted into the world. Seminary actually means "seed bed." No one remains a seminarian forever. Some leave as priests, fathers for the flock of God; others leave as better formed men of faith who go on to become husbands and fathers of a domestic church, the family.

We can't stay on the mountaintop, and build a permanent tent to hang out in! That was Peter's mistake on the Mount of the Transfiguration. I suppose I wanted that peace too badly, and ended up trying to grasp it when the thought came that I must let it go.

"Go forth... to a land that I will show you."

Wow, the power of those words. The invitation to journey, to leap, to trust completely. I was scared out of my mind in 1998. But looking back, what a ride! What lessons I've learned, and continue to learn as the Father continues to form me. Our past is such a rich treasure house for us to keep as we move into the future!

So where has He lead you, and where will He lead you still? Do you need to know everything? Do you need the map all drawn out and highlighted for you? Or can you just "go forth" and let God guide you? I certainly struggle with this walk of faith, but I've learned to trust Him all the more; to know just when to move and when to sit back and let go of the wheel. And today I am not alone, but another journeys with me!

I have another date that I will never forget. August 9, 2003. That's the day I found my vocation, my peace and my place. To stand beside a woman of faith who is for me a pure gift, a guide and a companion on this journey. As a husband and we pray soon as a father, I hope to walk this road just as Abraham did; in faith and trust and with wild abandon. In the words of Peter Kreeft "There is one and only one possible road to joy: selfless love." That selfless love is the bottom line for all of us. It gives us the power to launch into His love and the plans He has made for us.

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