In Section 1 and Chapter 3 of The will of God as a way of life: Finding and following the will of God, George Sittser helps us explore some obstacles to discerning God’s will.
He first discusses that we have too many choices in our lives and that we live in isolation. Therefore, when it comes time to make a choice we can easily feel overwhelmed. And we do not have individuals that know us well enough to help us navigate the choices. The problem with having many choices is that we become self-centered and begin to believe that we are always entitled to more. We associate choices with freedom and we become adamant if anyone or anything (like tradition) tries to limit our choices. We, as the body of Christ, are called to live in community. We are relational beings who benefit from the wisdom, encouragement, and guidance of others. But how many people can you claim know you…know who you really are? Sittser says that “many of us live in four, five, even six universes —neighborhood, church, work, club, team, committee, and so forth — each having little connection with the other.” (p.43) He goes on to say that “most of us could invent a different identity, value system, and personality for each of our many worlds, and no one would ever know.” (p.44) Therefore, there are few (if any) people who know us well enough to be able to assist our discernment process as we make life-changing decisions.
Another obstacle to discerning God’s will is busyness. Busyness clouds our judgment; it keeps us from being able to discern and make wise choices. Sittser says what most of us in American society would say if we were truthful with ourselves and others, “Even now as I sit down to plan my schedule for the week, I feel almost proud that my calendar is full of appointments, activities, and duties, as if my busyness is a kind of status symbol, establishing my worth as a human being.” (p.40) Actually, this reflects the ethos of the society we have built. I do not think that most people would be ashamed to admit that their identify and self-worth come from what they do and not who they are. Our culture would probably consider this type of thinking and activity virtuous.
I struggle in this area, I remember in high school buying my first planner. It was a Franklin Convey planner and I paid about $80.00 for it. It was my first catalog order. I bought one of the more expensive leather planners and I paid extra to have my initials monogramed. After all, if it was going to contain my life, it had to be special. I can recall the satisfaction I would feel when my planner was full for the day. Blank spots on the planner made me feel nervous and inadequate, so I would find things to fill in those empty spaces. This is why the MiraNous planner column for the daily schedule is open. I did not want to have lines for each hour of the day. Because those would compel me and others like me to feel that all the lines had to be filled. The column is anchored with a crosses instead of all the hours of the day because anchoring my day and holding myself accountable for every hour, every minute, is not as important (or even productive) as anchoring my day and time in Christ. That little adjustment helps me learn to “be” more instead of thinking that I need to “do” more.
Here are some interesting quotes on busyness:
- ‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’ (Mahatma Gandhi as cited on p. 41)
- ‘Nothing done impulsively and in a hurry is ever well done…We always do fast enough when we do well…’ (St. Francis de Sales as cited on p. 41)
For this week’s Guiding Principle, you can focus on simplifying the choices that you have in life, so that they do not pose distractions in your relationship with God. You can work on identifying busyness and doing something to become less busy. You can work on a relationship…getting to know someone more intimately and allowing that person to know you fully.
Oh, no, did I pose too many options!