Matching Our Wants to God's Will

Posted: 11/15/2012

Pat McEntee, associate vocation directorby Pat McEntee,
Associate Vocation Director

"'Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.'"—Lk 22:42

From birth on, people always need or want something. As babies, it may be food or diaper changes. As children, perhaps it is something less necessary like candy or the freedom to stay up past bedtime. As teenagers, perhaps it is to be liked by peers or to get new possessions such as cars.

But as we get older, our vocations should be our greatest desire as human beings. It is where we will find our greatest joys. Because there are so many options available in our society, it is easy to get caught up in the desire for earthly goods and treasures. It takes a lot of thought, prayer and discernment to get beyond our petty desires to find the true joy that awaits when we match our will to God's will for us.

In the movie Bruce Almighty, the God character played by Morgan Freeman says: "Since when does anybody have a clue about what they want?" How true is that? How many times have you really wanted something only to get it and realize it didn't make you any happier? I remember that, when I was 11 or 12 years old, I really wanted a Transformer for Christmas. My best friend always got the new one as soon as it hit the stores. When Christmas came, I was disappointed when I received a Go-Bot instead.

I was a little hurt but also appreciative that my parents tried to make me happy—and that was what they could afford at the time. A year or so later, my friend decided he was getting too old to play with his Transformers and gave them all to me. I was ecstatic at first, but soon realized I didn't really want them either. Obviously, this is a very good example of a "want." At the time, it certainly felt like a "need" to me.

My desires kept evolving as I matured. It soon became apparent that I had a passion for working with young people in a Catholic ministry setting. In my first ministry job, I had the the feeling that I was doing God's will and the desire to do so. Rather quickly, though, it became apparent that desire alone was not enough to sustain this vocation. As much as I wanted to serve and do this work for which I believed God was calling me, I found out I needed more to accomplish this goal.

My desire had to spur me to grow as a minister and develop skills to be effective. As Father Bishop noted in his writings, the missioners of Glenmary need to be every bit as prepared for their ministry as their foreign missionary counterparts.

The most important advice I can give to those who are trying to determine God's will for them—and sincerely want to match their own desires to God's will—is to be open to exploring the possibilities. It is often a slow and possibly even tedious journey, but if you try to avoid exploring the questions you will end up less happy.

If you do explore, it may lead to the greatest joys you could know in this life. Exploring a religious vocation is not much different from dating. It's a time of learning about oneself, growing closer to God and finding what you really want.