Many of us spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with our lives. Youth is spent thinking, “When I grow up, I will…” And it is a big awakening to discover oneself past middle age and still trying to discern what to do “when one grows up.” This is part of what the middle-aged crisis is all about. Many of us might find ourselves just “doing” and not going in any particular direction. We might be like the hamster I mentioned in a previous blog, just spinning one’s wheels and only getting older and more haggard. A person might feel that they have become half the person emotionally and at the same time twice the person physically than what they used to be.
I have heard many persons say, “If I had only known about this when I was younger” or “If only someone had told me about this.” And many come for guidance because they simply want to be told what they should do. Many are disappointed to learn that no particular person can dictate for them their own unique path, in fact it is unethical. However it is a matter of helping one to develop the tools necessary for discernment. A spiritual director and/or a counselor can give some helpful pointers and suggestions. And some might be very prophetic. But it is being able to take it even further than that. A person needs to know God’s will and to have the grace to follow in it.
Waiting to do something when we grow up is much like waiting to act to do something once we are perfect or have arrived. This is the trap of procrastination, waiting for the perfect moment that seems to never come while on this earth. Persons with obsessive compulsive personality disorders tend to never attempt anything for fear of failure. Sometimes we can be a little out of sorts when making decisions. There can be very real biological reasons that might affect our ability to make a choice. I remember a friend of mine years ago tell me that when she was pregnant she had difficulty making any type of decision. At times she would sit in the middle of the kitchen floor and cry because she could not figure out what to make for supper. I know that sometimes it is much easier to have my kids and husband tell me what they would like to eat rather than try to guess.
But I think it is more than even “being told what to do.” Persons want to have meaning in their lives. They want to have the satisfaction that what they attempt has a purpose. If making supper, we want others to like what we make. And if embarking on a path, we want to feel we are going somewhere and not just spinning our wheels like back at the hamster cage.
In my own devotions I found a passage from Isaiah that says:
The Lord will give you the bread you need, And the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide Himself; But with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, While from behind a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,” When you would turn to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:20-21).
Many might think that I am contradicting myself when I say that it is not about being told what to do. But really it is on a different level. It is being able to exercise our free will in such a way that we want to please God. This is a grace and it is a walk of humility. The older I get, the more I appreciate God’s will. I only wish to know it and do it better. The above passage from Isaiah spoke to my heart because God is presented as not only the Provider but reveals Himself to one’s eyes and ears as the Teacher and Guide. How beautiful! We can see Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs here. It is more than having food and water. It is also about having direction.
In this Sunday’s (January 15) readings we have Samuel being called by God. Then in the Gospel we have some of the disciples “finding” the Messiah. It is interesting:
Jesus turned and saw them following Him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”(NAB, John 1:38)
This is very profound. Jesus knew their hearts but He wanted them to understand their own hearts. He does not tell them what to do. But rather they seek in their own hearts “what they are looking for.” Within the same passage, Jesus names Simon “Cephas” who is St. Peter, the rock, who one day becomes the first Pope of the Church. St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican today is built upon what is alleged to be the bones of St. Peter. ( I include a picture of Pope Benedict XVI that my husband took in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.)
In summary, we could say that St. Peter figured out what he was to do. He had a rocky road, even denied Christ a few times, but eventually was able to do it.