Do I Have a Unique Call to Respond? How Do I Hear it/Find it?
In the Gospel of John (7:25-30) Jesus makes a concerted effort to avoid Judea, because that is where the religious authorities are trying to find a way to kill him – and he knows it. His apostles attend the Festival of Booths in Judea, thus he takes a risk and decides to go incognito, too. People in the marketplace and Temple, recognize Jesus and whisper among themselves, “Isn’t this the man that the authorities want to arrest? If he is the Messiah…then why are they trying to arrest him?” Jesus pipes up, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own.”
The story goes on but this main point continually resonates with me. Jesus voices the conviction that his life choices emanate from this intrinsic belief in God. “You know me…”
As a religious sister in my early 30’s, I directed two week-long summer camps for 200 girls ages 8 – 18 in the San Bernardino mountains. These camps were transformational. I was excited at the privilege of being entrusted to lead. My team was made up of young religious women in formation, who had been on the mountain for weeks, assigned to 3 previous camps. Arriving at the dorm where we would be sleeping for a few days, I heard one of the sisters weeping at her bunk. Coming closer, I saw the weariness in her face and heard the crack in her voice as she shamefully lamented uncertainty in facing two more weeks with bouncy, enthusiastic campers. Knowing her exhaustion from personal experience, I felt grateful that this year I might help.
How many times did Jesus encourage the disciples to go away and rest a while even in the face of clamoring crowds? I took my cue from knowing Jesus. Since receiving this assignment, I had pondered what my leadership of this critical summer ministry might look like. How would I use my experience/gifts while still respecting traditions? The out-of-the-ordinary choice to offer rest to the sisters felt like the compassionate, responsible, knowing-Who-sent-me thing to do.
Gathering my team that night, I revealed that instead of the traditional week of calendaring camp activities, they were to relax. “But…” came the reply in anxious unison, “are you sure?”
A condition of my leadership was a nightly, update call from the Superior General of the community. I mentioned my decision to allow the sisters to recover their energies instead of plowing forward, remaining on the usual track – and how successful it was. There was silence…until there wasn’t. The volume of the call immediately intensified. Who did I think I was to change years of well-practiced approaches to camp prep and team development? Didn’t I realize that ‘breaking the sisters down’ through heavy summer apostolate was part of the plan for their formation?
A hundred things ran through my head as I grit my teeth. Jesus’ voice rang in my ears, “You know me, Monique. You know what I am about.” I took the leap. My vacillation and self-doubt evaporated. The God I know moved my instinct that day. This God was revealed to me over years of questions, challenges, and suffering wrong choices. I stood on the knowledge that God saw what I didn’t – about me and the situation – and I trusted that knowledge.
Sometimes choices we make from positions of authority, based on experts, are crystal clear. Yet, often, the experts don’t see what we see or know what we know. There is the call which arises from need…the moment when we discern it and feel in our bones that we have what it takes to respond.
When doubt attacks this confidence, it is critical to look at the fear that lies behind the doubt. Because that is exactly what doubt is – fear. What am I afraid of, my own discernment or God’s? How well do I know – do I trust – the God who calls me? We may not know exactly how to proceed, but there IS a voice within which urges and affirms that we are the one who must act…and that grace exists to fill every gap.
As I listened to the angry words on the phone, I took heart that I had come to know myself a little more clearly. I knew where I came from in my decision and Who had sent me. I believed I had acted upon what Jesus had modeled about God. “You know me.”
How do we make these kinds of self-affirmations without becoming egotistical or rigid? Lacing our days with prayer and, over time with experience, there grows a conviction that we, too, know God and what God is doing. This deep spirit-knowledge allows us to trust the movement of seeing the need as the call and to trust that God knows what God is asking and of whom.
- Read wise words from our friend, Stephanie Clouatre-Davis, about how to follow our gut when making tough choices.
- Vinita Hampton Wright writes how to discern translating our gifts into action in ways that Monique was pressed to do.
- How do we recognize the Need as Call in regard to racial justice? This audio reflection by Becky remains a pointed and relevant opportunity for reflection.
- Read Monique’s article in The National Catholic Reporter, How do I hear God’s voice in the Babel of the world?
Photo by Katherine St-Pierre on Unsplash
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