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“We have to believe in God’s love. Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” – Pope Benedict XVI
THE SEARCH FOR PURPOSE …
There’s a lot of rhetoric going on about “discerning your vocation” — how God wants you to live out your life in a way that’s unique to you. And it’s so relevant. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think everyone has at least the sliver of a desire to do something meaningful with their lives, to make it count. It’s the yearning to “make the world a better place,” as cliche as it sounds, that burning desire or aspiration. Or maybe it’s the simple feeling of discontent towards mediocrity, the inability to escape the feeling that we were made for more.
And that, in a nutshell, is our search for vocation: The search for purpose.
DISCERNMENT RETREAT …
A few weeks ago I went on a Salesian Sisters Discernment Retreat, opening myself up to the possibility of religious life in my own vocation search. I went out of curiosity, but also for clarity. I hoped to come out of it with some kind of nudge towards any direction, whether it was religious life or not.
But I didn’t find any clarity. Nor did I find answers. What I did find was something much more fundamental than all of that — a reminder of the one thing that was key to my entire search.
I had to let God love me.
It was so simple, so painfully, ridiculously obvious, but I’d forgotten it along the way. I ‘knew’ God loved me like a cliche imprinted in my memory; but I hadn’t let it transform me in the sense that I was willing to give up everything for God since nothing else mattered more.
I’m still a work in progress.
But this retreat made me realize several things: That it didn’t matter what particular vocation I was called to, only that I loved. That I couldn’t love others fully in the way my vocation called me to until I was able to love myself. That I couldn’t fully love myself until I grasped the magnitude of how much God loved me.
It was a bittersweet revelation, to be honest. I wanted to be able to do God’s will, but my inability to embrace God’s love was inhibiting it from unfolding. But a friend of mine reminded me of something else I had forgotten: “[God loves] the you that is struggling and striving. The you that is failing and making mistakes. The you that is broken. What makes you truly beautiful is you as a whole, as you are NOW. That is the Truth.”
We’re often tempted to think that our vocation is something vast, complex, and complicated. But it’s really that simple. Fall in love with God. Let Him love you. Because yes, the saints did great things in the service of God — but only because they were first deeply, madly in love with Him.
Mother Teresa explains it in this way: “Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you — you can’t begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him.”
A FEW LAST WORDS OF WISDOM …
Finally, I wanted to leave you with an incredible quote from Pope John Paul II as a reminder that everything we seek for in our vocation search is really God Himself:
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”