Is What I Want and What God Wants the Same?
Last summer, a friend gave me a copy of Matthew Kelly's book, Rediscover Jesus. Later that evening, I read the first 10 pages and set it down on my coffee table. I did not pick it up again until I committed to reading it during Lent—a decision I am glad I made. Every chapter offers me a point to ponder, a verse to live by, a question to consider, and a prayer to recite, with the singular purpose of rediscovering Jesus. The 34th chapter entitled "Two Wrestling Questions" got my attention because its main points are pertinent vocation themes that I often discuss with discerners. The author points out that there are always two questions wrestling in our hearts: "What do I want?" and "What does God want?"
Wrestling with these questions is the starting point for any discerner. He must honestly look at them both together before embarking on a discernment journey with any authenticity.
What do I want? I thought that I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be a famous preacher like St. Paul who could set many people's hearts on fire for God! My motive was godly, but I allowed pride to creep in. I was becoming more interested in hearing people's praise and admiration than in being the mouthpiece of God. What made the situation worse was that I did not stop to give myself time to reflect on my choices.
I was aligning my thoughts with those of the popular culture. Nike says, "Just Do It." I did just do it, but I was forgetting that I could not just do it and that I had to practice the all-important virtues of patience and discipline.
Burger King advertising says, "Have It Your Way." I did have it my way, but I was forgetting that Christian living is about the common good, that I cannot always have my own way, and that my own decisions had wider, far-reaching consequences.
Sprite advertising says, "Obey Your Thirst." I did obey my thirst, but my thirst was never quenched satisfactorily. I was always thirsting for something more. Ultimately, I came to realize that my actions were not only hurting other people but were making me unhappy and leaving me searching for meaning. What I wanted was not what God wanted for me.
What does God want? Simply, God wants me to be happy. God does not want to make my life miserable with all the commandments and teachings. What my experience taught me is that happiness—or "life to the fullest," as the Scriptures would say—is not found in listening to people who admire you, in being popular, or in having the latest gadgets. I have found that life to the fullest is what God wants for me—which includes having a stronger faith, focusing less on myself and more on those in need around me, being more respectful and accepting of others who are different from me, and living out a more virtuous life shaped by God's commandments and modeled by saints.
Matthew Kelly summarizes the inseparability of these two wrestling questions: "Over time we discover that what we really want, deep inside, is what God wants for us. Wisdom is the realization that it is insane to want something other than what God wants. Once we realize this, we can begin the daily quest to seek his will in our lives." That is the starting point for joyful living and the secret to a successful discernment.
Glenmary sponsors Come & See mission trips several times during the year. These trips are an opportunity to step back from your hectic life, reflect about what choices you have made, reexamine your goals and desires in life, and align what you want with what God wants.