One of the most difficult parts of being a person of faith has been discerning the will of God . . . understanding God’s will for my life. I firmly believe that God created me for a purpose . . . for a reason. That I am unique in what it is that God wants from me . . . just as I believe that God created each of us for a certain purpose. And, I believe that God calls me to be who God created me to be . . . in that way, I reach perfection. That is the journey of faith . . . to be all that God created me to be. It just would have been nice if God gave me a book of instructions to follow in getting there.
Yeah, I know . . . the Bible is that instruction book, but I think you know what I mean . . . I wanted the specifics . . . the step-by-step details: after all, I am human and desire the easiest path. But, no . . . God did not make it that easy. Instead God has decided that the it would be best if I—we—learned the fine art of discernment. The problem with discernment is that it is not easy . . . it is never, ever, easy. Even at my age, I have not yet mastered the art of discernment.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell stated that if an individual found his or her bliss that there was his or her purpose. What he did not say, or maybe he did and I just wasn’t listening, was that sometimes that purpose is not what the individual wants to do. That he or she struggles against that purpose despite all the signs pointing to a perfect match. That he or she does not see him or herself in that role . . .
How does one respond to the voice of God when one is not sure that he or she wants to listen? As we enter into Holy Week we are reminded that Jesus struggled with God’s will . . . he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and finally declared, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” Peter, too, struggled with his love and allegiance to Jesus, and in the end, denied Jesus three times. Responding to God’s will is not always a neat and clean process . . . nor is it quick. Peter later redeemed himself . . . but not before realizing what he had done. I think that most of us are somewhere between the two . . . I know that I am.
It has been said that hindsight is 20/20. I would agree. Looking back over my life I have determined . . . no, discerned . . . that there is a fairly clear path that God has called me to trudge down. The ministry is a part of that path. From a young age, when I had to write an essay about what I wanted to be when I grew up, ministry was on the list. I had to pick three occupations or careers . . . I chose the military, teaching, and not being able to think of anything else, I chose ministry. No, I was not drinking in the fifth grade! It was a whim to get the assignment done. Several decades later, I am about to celebrate my 30th anniversary of being ordained into the ministry. More than 50 percent of my life has been as a minister . . . I am probably where God wanted me. Yeah, the whim became the call.
The other call upon my life is one that I have tried to ignore . . . that is in the area of disabilities. Having grown up in a family with siblings with disabilities and witnessing the crap they endured . . . our family endured . . . the second class (if that) they were placed in . . . I was determined not to fall into that trap. Then I had children with disabilities . . . went through the same crap . . . watching them be thrown into a lower class than everyone else . . . I was even more determined not to hop into the fray. Yet, surprisingly my voice is strongest in this area despite my efforts to not jump into the fray. Instead of wholeheartedly embracing this call upon my life, for the most part, I stand back and remain silent.
Richard Bach used the term “reluctant messiahs” in his book Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. Basically he was referring to the fact that often people do know and understand their purpose in life . . . God’s call upon their life . . . but chose to either ignore it or to step into it with reluctance. To use my father’s phrase, to do it half ass . . . with, reluctance. I understand that . . . I understand that because I dabble in the second half of God’s call upon my life . . . to be an advocate for those who are disabled. More often than not, I stand in silence.
It is only with reluctance that I step into the fray . . . only when I am dragged into the discussion . . . into the fight. It is only when it affects someone I love, someone I care about, that I get involved. Otherwise, I remain silent. Silence does not get the job done. Silence does not solve the problem. To remain silent is to ignore the voice of God . . . it is to refuse God’s will . . . it is to refuse to be whole and holy. That is the sucky part of discernment. To know God’s will and to refuse to participate. The sounds of silence are deafening . . . they kill.
Ministry is a part of God’s will for my life . . . I do it well enough. But, as I have said for many, many years, I am not sure the ministry I do is the ministry that God desires me to be involved in. That ministry, in my mind, involves working and advocating with those who have disabilities and their families. As much as many will doubt me, I know that this is a population that is overlooked, ignored, and on the brink of being eliminated . . . even within the church where all are supposed to be welcomed. I hear God knocking on the door, but it is only with reluctance that I even crack it open when I do open it.
Shame on me.
In Nikkos Kazantzakis’ book, The Last Temptation of Christ, it begins with Jesus running from an unknown stalker. Jesus can hear the footsteps behind him. Though he acts as if he does not know who the stalker is, he does—it is God. Jesus tries to run, but he cannot escape. In the end, he gives in to God’s will . . . the journey and ministry begin. The bottom line is that we can run, but we can never escape God’s will . . . God’s purpose for us. That is another part of the suckiness of discernment.
So, I stand in the sounds of silence . . . the day will come when I can run no longer . . . then God’s will will be done.