Doing God’s Will: More Questions than Answers

2 October 2006

In the last year, but primarily in the last six months, I have felt God talking to me. I’ve been going to church more often than ever in my life. Some weeks I have been to church five times, including two services on some Sundays. Part of my church-attendance fervor came from attending a series of services at Seabury-Western Seminary and repeatedly hearing sermons, there and elsewhere, that seemed eerily appropriate and relevant to how I felt at the time, and sometimes on that very day. Good preaching can hit home in a profound way.

My family has been attending church regularly for less than a year. Even before that time, I had been discerning an interest in attending divinty school, touched off by reading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and the birth of my son. This initial desire to go to divinity school was partly based on an appreciation of how free-wheeling the areas of interest seemed to be in contemporary divinity schools; although the scholarship and research coming from divinity schools seem intellectually rigorous, I liked the idea that divinity school faculty members appeared to tackle a whole host of different disciplinary questions —issues surrounding literature, politics, social justice, philosophy, and popular culture to name a few— while relating these questions to God. I liked that.

In the last year, God has been wooing me quite successfully, seducing me with grace in abundance and blessings beyond number, heaping life and love upon life and love, and granting something-like-peace amid life that is not always secure and peaceful. I think God tries to woo everyone, and in my case he’s wooing me so that I can serve him and his people, all his people. I feel, and am fairly certain, that this is a call to ordained ministry.

I am trying to do God’s will. I am trying to be faithful to this call and obedient to it. This weekend, I wondered if we can try to be faithful to some external aspect of God’s call, say a pastoral context or a particular ministry, and yet be somehow fail to do God’s will. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, doing God’s will is about saying “No” to our impulses, to what we want to do, so we can do what God wants us to do.

Is it possible that while God’s call was, in its external expression, one thing a few months ago, only to change a few months later? Can “obedience” to a call, especially some external aspect of a call, sometimes be misguided? Can the heart be trusted? After a period of (from my perspective) grand and overt gestures by God in one direction, can God begin to urge a different direction, not by external pressures, but by internal ones?

As I wrote, more questions than answers. It’s hard when God seemed to be writing things on the wall, only for the messages to become quiet whispers, for some of the things written on the wall —which the heart may have rebelled against— to become precisely the thing not to do. Sorry to be so cryptic, but I feel I need to be.

Today’s Feast: Guardian Angels

October 2 is reckoned in the Benedictine tradition as the feast of the Guardian Angels, which is particularly noteworthy in the United States because it is the patronal feast of the American-Cassinese Congregation of the Order of Saint Benedict. The American-Cassinese Congregation was founded in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (also home of Rolling Rock beer and Arnold Palmer) and includes the venerable St. John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota, home of Liturgical Press.

LutheranChik has an interesting meditation on guardian angels and her difficulty in believing in them. I used to be, like her, an “angel agnostic.” I tell you, what difference a baby makes. As a parent, I pray that my son’s guardian angel is always in top form; it’s a scary world out there.


Priestly Goth writes about a lot of stuff, among them Islam and the historical Jesus.

Fr. Stephanos, OSB (who’s not American-Cassinese, but in the Swiss-American Confederation) writes about Takashi Nagai, Saint of Nagasaki, and Therese of Lisieux, whose feast was yesterday.

Prior Peter, OSB (who’s not American Cassinese either, but a member of the Subiaco Congregation) is back from retreat, writes about “invading the city with silence” and posts a conference on beauty.

Pastor Clint of Lutheran Confessions considers the “cure of souls,” a not-so-contemporary take on pastoral care.

I Am a Christian, Too considers free speech and liberal American Christianity.

Tripp quotes me in his sermon! An honor indeed.

I commend you again to Bending the Rule, a blog by a thoughtful lay Benedictine. What I have read on his blog makes me think he is an asset to whatever community he is part of.

The Fogey offers some provocative links, as usual.


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