“The word of the LORD came to Jonah, son of Amittai: Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness has come before me. But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish, away from the LORD. He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down in it to go with them to Tarshish, away from the LORD. The LORD, however, hurled a great wind upon the sea, and the storm was so great that the ship was about to break up.”Jonah’s response is not an unusual one in human experience. We often resist God’s call. And that can lead to an understanding that God calls us away from ourselves, that His plans for us are in competition with our own plans for happiness and fulfillment. The truth of the matter is that we are often running away from happiness and fulfillment, pursuing it in places where it doesn’t and can never exist: in selfishness, in greed, in momentary pleasures. While we are mired in sin and selfishness, God’s call to holiness and joy seems unattractive compared to the immediate gratification of what is before us.
“Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Lo, you were within, but I outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong – I, misshapen. You were with me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you. You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.”God is not in competition with us. As Augustine discovered, God is not something foreign, something outside us, but He dwells within us.
“God knows what is my greatest happiness, but I do not. There is no rule about what is happy and good; what suits one would not suit another. And the ways by which perfection is reached vary very much; the medicines necessary for our souls are very different from each other. Thus God leads us by strange ways; we know He wills our happiness, but we neither know what our happiness is, nor the way. We are blind; left to ourselves we should take the wrong way; we must leave it to Him.”So while vocation is not something that God imposes on - that is to say, places upon - us, it is something that He places within us. And He does it because He loves us. ----- This is the final part of this series on Vocation Myths. I hope you have found it helpful and that it has helped you sort through some of the conflicting beliefs and impressions about vocation and discernment. I leave you with one last quote from Newman, which comes from the same meditation as the passage I quoted earlier. It is probably the most quoted passage of all his many writings. Print it out, pin it up where you can see it every day, and remember: you have a mission that is yours alone.
“I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God's counsels, in God's world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name. “God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission — I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his — if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.”