Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Being "Called"

In the Catholic social circles in which I often find myself, there is a lot of talk about being "called."

Being called to a religious vocation.

Being called to marriage and/or parenthood.

Being called to the single life.

Being called to homeschooling.

Being called to a certain career.

Being called to a certain place to live.

Being called to start a school -- whether that be on the elementary, secondary, or college/university level.

And, yes, I think God does call people to things.  But, if we believe we are being called to something, or if we are living a certain lifestyle to which we believe we have been called, humility is very important.

Because, sometimes, it might be easy to confuse our own desires or tastes or psychological dispositions with being "called."  For example, some people say that God places certain desires in our hearts because He wants us to carry them out.  At times, this may be true.  But, this belief could also lead to some dangerous things -- depending on the state of our mental health, among other factors.

So, back to humility.

And I am thinking today of one certain type or aspect of humility -- the humility of listening to other people, even (and maybe especially) if they are critical of us.

If we can't thoughtfully listen to someone's criticisms of and probing questions about our important life decisions -- the things to which we believe we have been "called" -- maybe this is an indication that we are acting more out of our own will than God's.  I'm not saying it is pleasant to be criticized or questioned.  I am not saying that others will treat us in a respectful way when they wonder what in the heck we are thinking when we want to homeschool or start a university or whatever.  And if the person questioning us is not of our faith -- or any faith at all -- it might be very easy to dismiss him or her.  The thing is, though, God does send us other people to help us along the way, even people who are atheists or who are making certain choices that some might view as morally objectionable.  So, it might be a good idea to quiet our hearts and listen to these people, to give them thoughtful answers to their questions, to prayerfully ponder their criticisms in our hearts.  Because, at least in my own life, I have found that people who have been critical of me have often had good points -- points which, sometimes to my regret, I do not fully appreciate until it is too late to avert a negative consequence.  Listening to those who are not fully approving of us has another benefit.  It may not cause us to change our plans, but it might help us to enact those plans in a way that is wiser.

Having humility in the face of others' seemingly critical questioning is also helpful as we live out the lives or decisions to which we believe we have been "called."  For, even if we have made a generally good decision about the direction of our life, it is very easy to stumble along the way, to get off-track.  And there is a special danger if we have the idea that we have been called to something by God.  Having this belief can cause us to become a bit proud, a bit arrogant, a bit conceited.  We might start looking at our critics as being tools of the "dark side," sent to throw us off of the "path of righteousness."  We might start looking at natural obstacles as supernatural, causing us to make poor decisions, leading us to throw good people "under the bus," as we forge ahead in the doing of "God's work."

To tell you the truth, I have become increasingly skeptical about people telling me that they are "called" to something by the Lord, except in the case of a religious vocation.  But, even in the case of such a vocation, I am more comfortable with being told by a person, "I believe God may be calling me to the priesthood/religious life.  I am going to prayerfully explore the possibility," rather than someone boldly stating, "I am being called to the priesthood/religious life," with no doubt or hesitancy, whatsoever.  Because, to me, the doubt or hesitancy is what belies the attitude of humility -- the realization that it might not be God, but the person himself, who has a certain desire.

And as far as other things go -- other life choices which do not involve actual religious vocations -- it is my opinion that God offers us a choice out of many legitimate possibilities.  I don't think He's up in Heaven going, "Out of all these hundred choices, I want you to make choice number three."  Or, "You picked Sam instead of Matt?  You've got to be kidding Me.  Matt is the one I intended for you."  I really don't believe that's the way God works.  So, whether you homeschool or send your kids to school (public or private), whether you attend that Catholic college or San Diego State University, whether you marry Sam or Matt or nobody at all, whether you have one child or three or ten, whether you are an administrative assistant or a movie producer, have a little confidence that God can be pleased with you in any of these things.  Just love Him.  And know He loves you.  And do the best you can.  #pax



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