This past weekend found me on a road trip with my parents and a few aunts and uncles. Anytime you have a large number of adults in a fifteen-passenger van heading to places you’ve never been before, you’re bound to have some tense moments and some hilarious episodes. The success of the trip is dependent on making sure the latter outweigh the former.
Towards the end of the weekend, our last destination was off a road that was apparently built within the last year. Our multiple types of directional aids—printed maps, one GPS navigation system, and three different phone apps—all had different ways of approaching our destination, and none of them recognized the new road. As we made various turns down winding roads, turned around once, and argued about whether to turn down a tiny one-lane road that seemed to go nowhere, it seemed at times that our destination had been hidden from us.
At times, we act like God’s will is similar to that destination we had struggled to find. We hear homilies about discerning God’s will, we pray that young people find their vocations, and it begins to seem like there’s one magic plan that God has chosen for us. We end up focusing so much on discerning God’s will for our lives, our thoughts turn to the inevitable question: What if we miss it? What if we take a wrong turn, make a wrong decision along the way, or simply mess up?
Is finding God’s will for our lives some sort of big treasure hunt? If we are struggling to know what He wants for us, it can begin to feel like He’s actually hiding it from us, like our destination on this weekend’s road trip. We are looking at three different maps and conflicting road signs, we are listening to sweet voices coming out of our phone apps telling us to “make a U-turn” … and the frustration mounts. Why is this so hard? Why is God trying to trick me?
It sounds silly when we stop to think about it. But the trap of that line of thinking is very real. There’s a fear that we can miss God’s plan and be doomed to misery. “I picked one man for you to marry, but you didn’t go to that social event four years ago, so you never met him,” or “I wanted you to become a priest, but you didn’t listen, so now you’re going to be miserable the rest of your life,” or “You and your wife were supposed to move to California, but you didn’t, so now you’ll never be happy,” or “I didn’t want you to work here, I wanted you to work there, and so now you’ll fail.”
We have to remember that God wants us to be happy—he’s not out to trick us. It’s not a big treasure hunt that we have to fret about. I think we can focus so much on “do you know our vocation?” or urging young people to “find your vocation!” that we’ve neglected to talk about the vocation we don’t have to go searching for, we don’t have to wait for, we don’t have to wonder about… because it’s right in front of us, in the every day grind of life, in our friends and family. Holiness.
There will be times when we make a wrong turn through sin and have to turn around. There will be instances when we ignore our internal GPS systems (our consciences) and our trip will become a little harder. There will be days when the road to holiness is a little curvier or a little more narrow. But God isn’t trying to trick us. It’s not a big guessing game or treasure hunt as we try to figure out just what he wants from us, or where he’s hidden his will in our lives. We know his will for today: it is to be holy. Love Him and love our neighbors. Obey the commandments and follow the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Accomplish the tasks of the day that have been given to you in your workplace, in your families, and which correspond to your place in society. Cultivate the relationship with God that He is calling you to through prayer.
It may be easier said than done, but it’s not a trick. God’s will is right in front us: be holy today.