I’ve been meaning to get a spiritual director for quite some time, but always found an excuse to put it off: I was a second-semester college senior, then I was moving to a new city, then a new home, then a new job, then another new city and another new job. There was always something. It wasn’t until this last year at the Jesuit Spiritual Center, upon completing the Spiritual Exercises, that I finally found the strong desire to find one. I have been meeting up with him for a couple of months now and brought up my fears with vocation and prayer in conversation.
I am driven by logic. The world is a beautiful place, and even more so when it makes sense. Chaos, emotion, and unpredictability send my mind into a spin, where I lose sight of what I can manage and control and instead tun to frustration and, in the worst cases, despair. Vocation has always seemed like something that requires more than just “figuring it out”, which I’d preferred to do without assistance or prayer. It’s always been easy for me to pray for other people and things that are easy to understand and conceive. It takes little risk to pray for victims of injustice, the sick, one’s classmates, and so on. It’s harder to pray for myself, especially when it requires me to be honest. It’s easy to ask God for patience in a single situation, but it’s much more difficult to ask for more patience because I’m struggling to accept that no one lives inside my mind or flawlessly understands what I mean or why and how I do things the way I do. The truest prayers in my heart – the brutal, real honest prayers, are not easy for me to offer to God.
Logic and critical thinking have been great gifts that I’ve been able to use largely to the benefit of others and myself. They’ve reliably and constantly steered me forward and kept me true to what I believe in. For all the help they have provided me, however, I’ve noted one place where they have not given me an answer: vocation. I can’t just figure out what I am called to do without asking God. As much as I’ve tried to cut Him out of the process and rely on myself, I can’t. After all, it’s God’s plan for me, not my plan for myself. I know I need to take it to prayer.
And here we get to the problem – prayer like this requires a lot of trust and surrender. To be truly open to what the Lord is calling me to do, I must be prepared to hear it, accept it, and choose to say yes, even if it means doing something I don’t want to do. Surrendering like this does not come easily to me. Letting go of my carefully crafted and controlled life is frightening. Being vulnerable and honest with God is hard enough, but exposing myself to what He’ll ask of me goes much further than even that. The truth is that I’m afraid of what He’ll tell me. Why exactly I’m afraid is something that I will need to continue praying and discerning. I know much of it is the fear that He’ll ask something other than what I believe I most desire, despite all my positive experiences in faith and life telling me differently.
Instead, I often choose to skip the leap of faith and retreat to my thinking. The familiar world of connections and reason then becomes a hotbed for overanalyzing and rationalization of my fears. I know I must take the leap of faith, but I am afraid. Instead I spend weeks just trying to think my way through it and hope that something I somehow missed miraculously pops up and gives me a perfect answer. From experience, I know that I don’t need to make such a drastic leap of faith—I simply need to act and take a small step. Once I take action and move forward in my discernment with an open mind and heart, the Lord will direct me where He wills. But, as my spiritual director aptly pointed out, it’s hard to steer someone who isn’t even moving forward. His warning to me was that I may become susceptible to analysis paralysis, which would keep me in my head and keep me from making decisions on even the smallest action. That by trying too hard to figure it out, I would do nothing more than procrastinate and put off my discernment process. He was righter that I think he knows.
I began this second year in ministry hoping that I could get a better understanding of where I need to grow. It has been two months already, and I can see that I’m firmly in the paralysis. I’ve made excuses, and procrastinated. Now, I need to move forward and let the Lord steer me. I need to let go of my fears and take the example set by Christ.
I need to surrender.