How many of us like to do what we want? Raise your hands if the answer is "yes." My hand is raised, and I suspect, if you're reading this, your hand is raised too. I'm awfully good at wanting what I want, and the sooner the better. That's human nature. Hopefully we grow out of much of that attitude as we age. But at least in my case it still crops up from time to time . . . . OK more often than time to time.
I find I'm also very good at telling God that I won't do something. Almost always, when I make such a declaration, I discover God has a sense of humor that God uses to remind me exactly Who is in charge. Shortly after I entered seminary I received a fascinating reminder of God's sense of humor at work.
I am a second career pastor. In my first career I was first a paramedic, and then an administrator with the Chicago Fire Department. Shortly after I entered seminary I was visiting the last firehouse where I'd actively worked as a paramedic. My friends there thought the fact that I was in seminary was hilarious. They told me, between gales of laughter, that I'd soon be on "that little bus" which was going around the neighborhood. Without even knowing what that little bus was, I declared I would never do that.
During my first quarter in seminary I discovered the little bus was the street outreach bus for an organization called The Night Ministry. Its mission was to bring health care, friendship, and when asked counseling to different areas of Chicago's night time community; the people who would never enter the door of a church. The health outreach bus mostly provided care to male and female prostitutes.
During my second semester I was immersed in liberation theology. At the same time I began to have my attention drawn to the Night Ministry. If I opened a newspaper t would find an article about their work. Almost every time I turned on radio or television I heard or saw a news story featuring them. It didn't take long for the continual bombardment of information about their work, and the influence of liberation theology to get me to volunteer in the health outreach ministry. And sure enough, my first night working with them took me to a place literally across the street from the firehouse where I had declared I would never be on "that little bus." I loved every minute of the work. It became a delight.
Episcopal priest and author Ron DelBene suggests that seeking God's will for us is really seeking God's delight for us. I have found this to be true. Every interim pastorate where I felt God's call to serve has been mostly a delight. In any interim pastorate when I didn't listen to what should have been obvious signs that God did not want me there, has been, to put it mildly less than a delight.
Benedict was right about this constant process being a step toward humility. Or as a pastor friend remarked recently, " it's a real pain doing what is right, even if you want the opposite." Or as Benedict put it, "Self-will has its punishment, but constraint wins a crown." Thank you Farther Benedict for this reminder in the Rule. Please keep calling it to my attention. I know God's sense of humor will also keep reminding of the same thing.
Brother Oscar Romero