May 18, 2012
The Plans I Have For You
Discovering God’s plan for our life requires openness to change — and faith that moves us beyond our fears. By
Joan McGuinness Wagner
As people of faith, we are comforted that God calls us by name, loves us for who we are — not what we do — and has hopes and dreams for each of us. This is an awesome and humbling belief. The God who created us knows our capabilities and encourages us to grow into them. But as doubting humans, we can anguish over discerning God’s plan for us. What are we to do? Where are we to serve this loving and gracious God? With the smallness of our minds and tightness of our hearts, it is difficult to comprehend God’s hopes for us.
Blessed William Joseph Chaminade experienced many of these questions. Answering the call to priesthood early in his life, he continued to be alert to where Mary was leading him. His life was filled with blessings and challenges. A favorite image of him is his time in Saragossa. Exiled from his beloved France, unable to use his faculties as a priest, Father Chaminade spent his days praying in front of the statue of Mary of the Pillar, asking the ageless question, “What am I to do with the rest of my life?” True to the goodness of God and the openness of his heart, Chaminade’s question was answered.
Marie Thérèse de Lamourous had plans for her life. This quiet woman wanted to be a Carmelite nun, spending her life in prayer and silence. Suddenly she was asked to run a house for repentant prostitutes. She was appalled! She didn’t want to engage in this work, yet her heart opened and she found such peace with these women that she never left them. What an act of faith, what a vocation story!
Throughout our lifetimes we revisit these questions in a variety of forms. “Should I take this job” …”go to this school”…”marry this person”…”enter into religious life”…”remain single”…”give my time, my money, my talent to this cause?” The questions can paralyze us and mask our ability to hear the whispering of God.
Years ago a woman sat in my office trying to process a decision. Her reluctance to decide was evident. Finally I asked her why she was hesitant. Her answer: “I am afraid.” My response was, “Do you know what you are afraid of?” “Yes,” she said, “I am afraid I’ll change.”
Isn’t this true? We are afraid to change. Responding to God’s call, regardless of what the call may be, means we will be transformed in the process. Our role as parents changes as our children mature. New opportunities can require different skills. Moving from one ministry to another requires relocating, starting over. Letting go of our fears means believing the Scriptures when God says, “Be not afraid, I am with you always.” We are altered by the transitions in our lives. The God of all ages who guided Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph, Blessed Chaminade, Venerable Marie Thérèse and Venerable Adèle keeps all promises. We need only to believe and grow into the great dreams God has planned for us, allowing God to stretch us into new forms.
Let us pray that we have the courage to let go of our fears — to be the holy people God dreams us to be. Amen.
Joan McGuinness Wagner is director of Marianist activities, Office of the Rector, at the University of Dayton.