If you would have asked me 2 years ago if I've ever considered being a religious celibate, I would have answered: "No way; not for me. I like girls too much." You know, typical dude answer.
Right now, I live in a rectory.
There are 2 priests, 3 religious brothers, and 1 bishop. It's crazy where life takes you. Interestingly enough, if you would have asked me that same question the day I moved in with these men, my answer probably would have been the same: "No thanks; not for me."
After one week of living there, I end up in mass one morning with just myself and the bishop. The first reading was 1 Corinthians 7:6-8.
"I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were (single) as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do." - (RSV)
After the readings, the bishop stands up and looks at me with a little half-smile on his face. I already know what's about to hit me. He proceeds to give a homily to me, the only person in the room, about the significance and importance of the celibate vocation and religious life.
Alright God, I get it. You're obviously trying to speak to me. I know celibacy is a beautiful and important call in the Church. I know all these men I live with are super holy and have done amazing things. I know the majority of Saints have only been able to do what they have because of their total and radical response to You, God. I know; I get it. I'm just not open to the celibate life.
God's Call Satisfies
It seems to me that when we talk about vocation and life call, it's primarily in the ballpark of desire. I've heard people say that we can discover God's calling for our life by finding our heart's deepest desire. This statement isn't wrong; but what the heck does my heart desire? Some days my heart desires to run off and play baseball. Some days I just want to go make a lot of money and live the American dream. Some days I can't get a particular girl off my mind. Our desires seem to change every day. Underneath all of the temporary wants of our lives, our hearts are searching for what only God can provide. Ultimately, He wants to satisfy our deepest desire by inviting us into our permanent life call.
God Has a Bigger Vision for Our Lives
In my experience, God always has a bigger picture. Often times I am fixed on the here-and-now details of my life. I'm fixed on what I am going to do next year, where I am going to live and what kind of car I want to buy. What I've found is that my desires can come from having a small vision for my life. God, on the other hand, has a much bigger vision for my life. He is thinking about the salvation of the whole world and my role in it. He is thinking about my spending eternity with Him. God has a bigger purpose for me than what I can see because I hadn't yet taken time to get a glimpse of His bigger vision. I hadn't yet seen the real purpose for which He made me.
God's Vision Meets the Heart's Deepest Desire
Consequently, what I have found is that when I get a glimpse of God's vision and purpose for my life, it stirs the deeper and truer desires of my heart. Desires like greatness, impact, significance, and a meaningful life. Isn't that what we all truly want with our lives? I recently made the decision to become an associate with the Brotherhood of Hope (a religious order). I don't know yet whether the Lord is actually calling me to the celibate lifestyle. What I do know is that He has actually changed and moved my heart to desire great things. he has called me to look at the bigger picture and given me a vision for greatness. It was only when I saw a glimpse of this vision, the possibilities, the adventure that could be, did it stir my heart to desire the bigger purpose that God has for me.
It's Time to Be Honest With Ourselves
I believe that the Lord does want great and amazing things for our lives. I believe that He can move our hearts to see the bigger picture. but are we willing to take an honest look at the possibilities He has for us? Are we willing to give the time, space and attention for Him to actually move our hearts? Are we bold enough to pursue our deepest desires? If we want to have an honest discernment time for our life's vocation, I believe each of us has to take a real look at celibacy. The excitement of seeing the bigger vision for your life is worth it. The journey of discovering your deepest desire is worth it. It's not easy, but worth it. It's worth taking the time to know for certain that your life is headed in the direction God has for you - a direction that the Lord will use to bring about greatness, impact on the world, and eternal life spent with Him.