Demands are always present on the vocational journey, from the first questioning through the process of discernment and to living a more fulfilling life.
When we try to look back on our life, sometimes we come across a past full of frustrations; at other times, we remember people and events that made us happy, dream and have greater hope for the future. Our way of looking at the past varies according to what we are experiencing in the present. Sometimes, we remember words or actions that brought us down. Other times we remember words or actions that gave us comfort and encouragement.
There are also times that someone, recalling the past, tells us, “What you told me at that time changed everything.” In these moments, we see clearly how what we say or do can alter and interfere in the lives of those around us, no matter how banal our words may seem at first sight.
On this path of vocation, every decision is important and determinant, both for us, as well as for others. I say this because, many times, we are so absorbed by our worries and indecisions that we are unable to see beyond ourselves and say, “I don’t do this because it’s difficult for me,” “I can’t go that way or I’m already seeing my life going backwards,” … and so on, in a tangle of egos that sometimes make us forget that we are not the centre of the world.
Despite these difficulties, it also happens that we start to “lie” to ourselves: “I used to do this, but my friends wouldn’t understand, I even did that, but my family would suffer a lot.” Finally, we have a tangle of excuses that we use for ourselves, trying to escape from ourselves and the demands of our vocation.
There are no easy paths or simple decisions. When we choose, we are always choosing not to take other roads. That’s not bad because it allows us to choose better! The demands of love are many. How many times will a mother be completely exhausted and yet, true to her vocation, comes home and prepares her child’s birthday party, or stays awake all night tending to her sick child? She will not sit or lie down and take care of herself! The demands of love are greater and the only ones that give fullness to her existence.
The same happens with our vocation. The demands are always there, from the first vocational inquiry, all through the process of discernment, and all through life. It is not an easy path to walk in. It requires a companion that allows us to discover what we are and what we want to be and to face any difficulties.
To realize our desire for a full life, we have to overcome our fears and insecurities. We must also humbly accept that “we” is stronger than the “I”. As the African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Vocation always urges us to go further, to go where we would not dare think or even imagine. Vocation not only broadens the horizons and meaning of human existence but also implies and gives us tools like human accompaniment so that we do not lose heart in the face of difficulties or end up taking a path opposite to the one we dreamed of.
We know that, in our life, all our actions count. But do they all count equally? The Pope tells us that it is our actions that show “the nobility of the human vocation to participate responsibly in God’s creative action.” (Laudato Si’, n. 131) However, it is important to realize that it is not always a question of acquiring certain behaviours. There are, in fact, some behaviours that we have to learn and adapt, but our actions are more than a set of learned behaviours!
For example, we learn how to segregate trash and recycle because we are concerned for the environment. However, until this behaviour does not become an integral part of what we are, there will always be the possibility of slacking off.
Then the moment when we do not sort the garbage comes. If we only see the segregation of garbage as an acquired behaviour, we would only feel regret. However, if this behaviour becomes an action, then we suffer. It is because the act of segregating trash has become an integral part of what we are, and neglecting to act feels like we are attacking ourselves.
The fullness of our life will always be governed by our actions and not by our behaviour. Now, if our action is guided by vice and selfishness, what plenitude will we reach, if not that of destruction itself? If we think about vocation, we may eventually ask, “What must I do to start real vocational accompaniment?”
In line with this thought, we must adopt a concrete action. Even when we are not convinced of our vocation yet, we must talk to someone who may be able to accompany us in our discernment process. If we think of vocational accompaniment as part of our behaviour, as something to do because everyone else says it has to be done, then we will easily give up.
On the contrary, if we allow ourselves, little by little, to assimilate this behaviour, not as something we “must do” or as something that is imposed on us, we will live this vocational dimension as a reality that also integrates what are. There, it will no longer be a behaviour, but an action that we perform. It is our whole being that lives the vocational accompaniment and not just our intellect and emotions. (Susan Vilas Boas)