Reminiscing morphed into daydreaming, and the question arose: is this the life I want for myself? Seventeen year old Adam would look at twenty-four year old Adam and tell him he sold out. He bought into the expectations of society, into a perceived definition of success. Seventeen year old Adam didn't want to work out of an office and didn't want to study for the sake of getting a piece of paper. I began fantasizing about how I could escape the work grind, about how I could recapture that sense of adventure in my life.
The grass looks greener on the other side; and look, I do love my job and I do enjoy learning and I do have good friends and relationships....but, in times of struggle or challenge, my mind often drifts to the "what if" instead of "what is". I see this time of my life as a sort of transition period between the adventures of my youth and growing up, getting married and starting a family. Instead of embracing this time, I can take the easy way out and imagine how life would be if certain aspects of my past were different, or I let my mind run away into fantasies of the future.
This way of thinking prevents us from life to the full. It prevents us from ever understanding how God can be a part of our life and how our life can be a part of something bigger. In your own life, when confronted with a decision or problem or trial, have you gone to the "what if?" question? Or when you're unsettled or discontent, do you let your mind jump ahead five or ten years to the "what should be?" and determine that future life is better than the present?
That "what if?" or "what should be?" question manifests into a whingeing and complaining, something which my girlfriend found annoying. She very sternly told me to "get myself together". I've heard those words before, but this time they carried greater meaning. Work, uni, relationships: they're all parts of my life but I was letting them dictate me. To "get myself together" meant reigning these things back in and not allowing them to be burdens.
That's the obvious part, the real revelation for me was this: God's call is to pull yourself together. We illustrate vocation as God's call, but often it's not an audible voice (though this is not impossible). Practically listening to God's call involves being attentive to all the parts of one's life: gifts, passions, experiences, family, friends, community, faith, work, study, etc. Discernment requires one to pull these things together, to be attentive to what they mean and to determine how these can form a life journey which serves God, Church and the world.
In this context vocation isn't a future decision, nor is it a past once-off decision. It's being present to God's call now. For me, the challenge is that I don't feel called to be stuck at a desk or making endless contact calls or with my head stuck in the books. Pulling myself together meant acknowledging that I need to do the work in order to do the things I do feel called to. Discernment is that awareness to align the different parts of my life with how I understand God's call. That's something I'll do everyday of my life, not just when I was an adventurous youth minister, nor just when I'm married and starting a family.
We use many concepts, categories and images to explain vocation; put simply, it is response. God calls us and our response is to pull together our life so that we may respond with our whole self to that call. That might seem oversimplified, but sometimes we need the simple when life feels complicated. In those times, rather than getting over it, we need to get with it; it being the reality of God in our lives.