Growing up, I always heard the saying, “No la pienses mucho,” meaning, “Don’t think about it too much.” I would hear this saying whenever I questioned the million possibilities in my life and never really acted upon any of them out of fear of making a mistake. To this day, I often overthink a problem… and slowly… walk away, not wanting to deal with it at all.
The plague of overthinking even applies to our faith. We can be so fearful of not doing God’s plan or “letting Him down” that we end up doing nothing, and that’s exactly what God doesn’t want.
Imagine “discerning” to determine if you should wash the dishes or take out the trash, waiting for God to reveal himself — the only thing that will be revealed is probably a chancla (sandal) flying across the room, *nearly* decapitating you. (Yep, the good ol’ days of growing up in a Hispanic house!)
Sometimes it’s clear what the Lord wants us to do, unfolding our way to holiness in small choices and responsibilities we make every day; but other times, it takes more time and prayer to know what we are supposed to do. Should we wait for a sign? Should we just act? And if so, how do we act?
What is God’s plan all about anyway?
God’s plan for us is to be united with Him in His Kingdom. That’s it. But because He loves us to the extent of not forcing us to return, He freely gives us the opportunity to choose (a.k.a. free will). Due to our attraction to sin, though, we could not return on our own. That is why the Father sent His Son, Jesus.
Within this plan, we also have a mission known as our vocation. Some have referred to it as our ticket to heaven and if we miss it, well that’s it! Good luck. Ouch, the pressure is on! But returning home should not feel like pressure; it’s really a joyful journey of experiencing the Lord here in this world. If we think God is watching our every move and waiting for us to mess it all up, you have the wrong idea of Him (and what a hopeless humanity we would be with that kind of “god”!).
God has already proven that He will not abandon us through the Church, the sacraments, Scripture, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and even through His people. We have a God of hope, who is alive and has not abandoned His Children, calling us to be open to His calling. We even have angels and saints praying for us from heaven until we get there. This should give us the peace to know the Lord will always lead us to where He wants us to be: with Him in heaven, forever.
Here and Now
“Don’t think about it too much.”
What does that mean for us here and now?
We are called to respond today — not later, not tomorrow, but right now. We begin simply by being a good student, a good brother or sister, a good son or daughter. These are some of the “right now” vocations by which we learn how to love more perfectly.
In these roles, we make small sacrifices for the people who are closest to us. These small sacrifices help us live what Christ teaches beautifully on the cross, when He laid down His life so that others (read: you and me) may have eternal life.
We may not think that these small choices matter, but to God, they are a way to prepare us for our “later” vocation.
I know what you must be thinking: “Miguel, this is great and all, but I’m still wondering… How should I decide to begin dating, or discerning priesthood or religious life?
Alright, alright. I’ll help you out.
We cannot live in fear of making a mistake or disappointing God, but instead should find the courage to responsibly make decisions toward discovering our vocation. I am currently engaged and it has been the best decision of my life. When I decided to propose, (thank God she said yes!), I felt at peace, many doubts and fears were lifted, and I felt I had answered my calling, my mission.
What helped me do this was balancing prayer, community, visiting with people living their vocation joyfully, and staying in a state of grace.
- Everything has to be rooted in prayer. When the engagement ring was ready, the first thing I did was drive to the nearest Catholic chapel and pray with the ring. It’s also important to ask people to pray for you and to be vulnerable with the faith-centered people you trust as you confidently pursue your vocation. The answer is always to pray, pray again, and then pray some more.
- Find your community. It is easier to geek-out about Marvel when everyone around you understands the references. Having people in my corner who share the same point of views with me, helps me to focus and to be more determined in my goals. I even asked a good friend of mine to come with me when buying my fiancée’s engagement ring. Mostly I did this because I couldn’t think clearly, but I also wanted to rejoice with someone. I have had doubts, challenges, and fears but I am blessed to have not made these decisions alone.
- Visit with people living their vocation with joy. We cannot be afraid to ask questions and have deeper conversations with sacramentally married couples, priest, and religious sisters. If you want to grow, learn from sisters, priests, married couples, and lay people who are faithfully living out their vocation. This always brings me more clarity and joy when discerning. It especially helps to hear about the challenges of vocation and how they lead to greater peace and a deeper encounter with Christ. Don’t be afraid to seek these people out and ask them to share their journey.
- Remain in a state of grace. Keep in mind, if our discernment leads to sin or in some way contradicts the Commandments, it will only bring an absence of truth and love — in other words, an absence of Christ. Being consumed by sin could numb and cloud our intellect into believing lies about what we ought to do. Staying close to the sacraments will always give us a clearer vision of our vocation and a more profound encounter with Christ.
Be not afraid and act, my friends. We have already established we can’t act in fear of making the wrong decision. Through your journey, the Lord will be right there with you. Ask the Lord, “May your will be done, and not mine,” for the Lord will definitely lead us to a vocation that will help us grow and become the saints we are called to be.