Have you ever had the experience of someone getting something stuck in your head? Yesterday morning someone mentioned to me that they had potato gems for dinner. Immediately I began fantasising about potato gems: the crunch, the grease, the burning sensation from being too impatient to let them cool - potato gems are pure eating bliss! Even now, twenty four hours later, I still have a craving for potato gems!
But it's not just with food. On Sunday night my girlfriend's mother mentioned her favourite song. Everyday since then I've had that song stuck in my head: when I'm in the car it will no doubt come on the radio, or I catch my self humming the melody. It happens to me all the time: someone will mention a food or a song or a movie; and I'll spend the following minutes, hours, even days with it stuck in my head.
It's not just food or music that gets stuck in our heads though. I still remember back in Year 11 my Business teacher saying he couldn't picture me working in health care. Ever since then I have always thought that I couldn't work in health care.
Many vocations have been born out a comment or a question that has planted a thought in someone's head. Many priests and seminarians would say they pursued the vocation to priesthood because someone asked them if they'd ever thought about being a priest. Since I left the seminary many people have admitted to me that they couldn't see me becoming a priest; which has been a real confirmation of the journey I feel God is leading me on.
Words are powerful things, especially when they are spoken and spoken by people whom we trust or admire. There's no doubt in my mind that God could use such words to lead someone in their faith journey. So there's two challenges here for us:
1) To have the courage to speak such words. You might notice a gift or a talent or a passion in a friend, sibling, even a random at school or work. A word of encouragement or affirmation could lead to that person discovering the purpose God has placed in their life. It doesn't have to be big or prophetic, it could be something as simple as "hey, I noticed you're pretty good at ____/passionate about _____; have you ever thought of doing something with that?" Discernment isn't just about discerning your own vocation, but helping others discern their calling too.
2) To have the courage to accept such words. We often find it uncomfortable to have someone affirm our gifts, and it can be hard to accept such encouragement. The "tall poppy syndrome" which pervades our society tempts us not to stand out. If someone you really trust or admire points out a gift or talent or passion - follow it! As I said, there's no doubt in my mind that God speaks meaning and purpose to us through the words of those whom we really trust and admire. Sometimes though it may not be straightforward or even make sense to follow their advice, so there's a bit of risk involved. But affirmation, challenge or encouragement that is spoken sincerely will often point to the truth of who we are as human beings.
Really, the point I'm trying to make is that God does speak to us; and when someone's words get stuck in your head, they're probably stuck there for good reason. We need to listen carefully to how our vocation unfolds through our daily experiences. And we need to have the courage to take up the invitation to uncover the fullness of who we have been created to be.