Wednesday, February 01, 2006

St. Ignatius' Autobiography, Part 6: The Difference

There was, however, this difference. When he was thinking of the things of the world he was filled with delight, but when afterwards he dismissed them from weariness, he was dry and dissatisfied. And when he thought of going barefoot to Jerusalem and of eating nothing but herbs and performing other rigors he saw that the saints had performed, he was consoled, not only when he entertained these thoughts, but even after dismissing them he remained cheerful and satisfied. But he paid no attention to this, nor did he stop to weigh the difference until one day his eyes were opened a little and he began to wonder at the differences and to reflect on it, learning from experience that one kind of thoughts left him sad and the others cheerful. Thus, step by step, he came to recognize the difference between the two spirits that moved him, the one being from the evil spirit, the other from God.

The difference. You’ve probably felt it too. This is one of Saint Ignatius’ most important insights into the spiritual life; yet it seems so simple!

One of the problems I remember facing in my early adult years was the fact that there were so many things that I could do and would like to have done. This, I learned, is a great temptation. I spent years trying one thing after another, all the while being careful to “keep my options open.” It was a problem with choosing a college major, and it also became a problem for sticking with a job. I would do something I liked for a while, then get bored. Soon enough, another opportunity would present itself, and I found myself in a new job. Later, I would get bored with that job too. It was a vicious circle.

The crucial moment came for me when, restless after several years of studies, I went looking for something new to do. I had my sights set on a year in Japan teaching English. But as I was pursuing that, I got a call from a friend. She had been at a local parish and saw that they were looking for someone to direct their youth ministry program. She had immediately thought of me as someone who would be good for that job! And the truth is, youth ministry had been a constant in my life. As I moved from job to job, I had stuck with my youth ministry “hobby.”

I found myself faced with a difficult decision when I was offered both jobs. I have always loved to travel, so the Japan option had a strong pull. But, I decided to pray about it and ask God which option I should choose. Like Saint Ignatius, I found myself enthusiastic about both options. But I also found that while the enthusiasm about Japan would soon fade, my enthusiasm for the youth ministry job lingered. After all, hadn’t God been showing me for years that this was part of his will for me?! I still feel a little pang of regret when I think of turning down that year in Japan, but that decision changed my life, leading directly to the discovery of my current vocation. I can no longer “keep my options open,” but that’s now a welcome difference.


Blogger Deb said...

I know that "vicious cycle" that you mentioned. I still find myself thinking, "What do I really want to do when I grow up." I'm still searching. What a wonderful thing to know that you're doing just what you're supposed to be doing!

9:18 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi. Great blog! My sister taught English in Japan for 7 years :-)

4:20 AM  

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