It is incredibly easy for me to think that everyone else has a far better job than I do. Over the past few years, I seem to have perfected the skill of viewing the neat ways that everyone else can live out their job as an apostolate for Jesus. Yet I seem to miss the ways in which I can do the same thing…in a Catholic school…teaching Theology.
Parked outside the Cathedral the other day, I thought of how neat it would be to show up to such a place for work. Wouldn’t it be neat to work for the Diocese? Or I’ll go to a restaurant and think about how wonderful it could be to subtly evangelize while serving people their food. Just a few weeks ago I had my students make lists of different secular jobs and then brainstorm ways to live the Gospel in the midst of such work. And I can give you a decent list for most jobs that are not immoral. I miss, however, the ability to live it out in the midst of a job that is so clearly evangelistic.
Because, so often, I want something else. Something easy. Something challenging. Just something different than the lot I have been given.
Probably every couple months or so, I will find some other job and will dream about taking the leap. The most recent one was being a missionary and teaching in Belize. Other times it involves going back to school to get my Master’s in Theology or going to the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in D.C. Or I dream about traveling. Or leading a pilgrimage. What if I took a job of leading mission trips for other people? Or I go and live a life of voluntary poverty while working with the poor?
This little heart of mine has so many dreams and so many hopes. Perhaps God has been telling me to leap for years now, but I have been too frightened to do so. Or maybe I fail to love in the humble, ordinary tasks of my current job and simply long for excitement.
I am even able to make small things done by others seem great and extraordinary. Take St. Therese of Lisieux for example. There is a story of how another sister was annoying St. Therese by splashing water on her while the sister was washing some clothes. I image the situation and I see St. Therese being incredibly sacrificial in the midst of this frustration. Of course, she was sacrificial, but at the moment, she was probably just…annoyed. In that moment of not responding with distaste, she was simply annoyed and was not hearing trumpets or feeling that she was doing a great and noble thing. That is the act of loving in the ordinary. That is the area in which I fail. And it causes me to desire to do something great and noble because, interestingly enough, it seems easier.
The desire I had to take a job in Belize is not as random as it might sound initially. This past semester, I began to wonder what it would be like if my students were poor rather than mostly middle or upper-class. The comfortable complacency that comes with materialism makes it difficult for me to convince my students that there is a need for God. I felt a desire to teach those who were conscious of the needs that they had and physical needs are the easiest ones to acknowledge or admit. Teaching students in the midst of poverty would provide different challenges, but could provide a certain openness in other ways.
I am left longing for and wanting what I do not have, like working a different job or living in a different place. That can be good if it provokes me to change or to leap when I’d rather be complacent. But it isn’t good if it means I overlook the ways God is calling me to live simple virtue in the present moment and in the midst of annoyance. Maybe it isn’t a religious sister accidentally splashing water at me, but it might be a housemate who is prone to leave a mess or a student who asks seemingly pointless questions. It is in those ordinary, “annoying” moments of my life that I am called to exercise and grow in virtue. The other jobs and lives that people have will always look more interesting and more grandiose because I do not see the interior growth or struggle that is occurring. (I remind myself this particularly when I think about marriage and having a family. While those are my dreams and the vocation I long for, I attempt (yet fail at times) to not perfect that which I know is difficult.)
Perhaps someday the Lord will call me to something that I deem “grand” and then I will see what it is like. But if Jesus spent thirty years of His life in the midst of the ordinary, preparing for His mission, then chances are really good that my preparation has only just begun. Right now, God has called me to this littleness. Yet, as St. Therese’s life has shown, littleness can yield true greatness if done wholeheartedly.
So, here I am, Lord. I come to do Your Will…even when I wish it would be other than what it is.