Monday, May 9, 2011

Speaking of discernment...

Just as I was thinking about discerning and doing God's will, and Leila at Little Catholic Bubble so graciously commented and directed me to her post on just this topic, I had something come up today that really brought it to mind again.

My sister in law, who is 23, has been dating someone for four or five months now and they seemed like a great couple. We knew him before and were so excited to see the two of them get together. Today he dropped a bombshell - he felt he had to end their relationship. It quite literally came out of nowhere and she is devastated. I spoke to her for a while on the phone and the whole thing has me scratching my head... and really got me thinking about Leila's post and discerning God's will.

Her boyfriend didn't break up with her because he doesn't like her, or was attracted to someone else or doesn't see a future with her. He felt that God is telling him to end the relationship. They are both Christians of what I'd call the "evangelical, non-denominational" persuasion and the difference in how they perceive discerning and doing God's will became starkly apparent today. He doesn't want to break up with her, but for some reason he feels that God is asking him to. And all I can think of is, why?

She told me he said that he's concerned that his walk with the Lord isn't on the right track; that he hasn't been spending enough time reading his Bible or in prayer and he feels like he's not living up to who she thinks he is, or who she deserves (and therein lies my theory about what's really going on here....). What I keep thinking is what Leila wrote about God respecting our free will, and when we are faced with different choices that are both moral options, we are free to make that choice. As Catholics, we aren't looking for God to tell us what to do at every turn. We turn to him for wisdom and guidance and we seek to do His will. But we're not expecting him to tell us what to do every step of the way.

I think they have both been raised to expect that kind of feedback. So when he starts having doubts about his ability to one day be a good husband and provider (which is what I think this really boils down to), he fears that it's the voice of God telling him to break off the relationship. And so he reacts out of fear.

I'm not one to point fingers at other Christians and say they're doing it wrong; I have enough of my evangelical friends who'd like to point their fingers at me for being Catholic and say the same thing. But I am learning more about the differences in not just Catholic teaching, but the Catholic way of life and I'm rather relieved and comforted by the wisdom of our church.

I hope for the best for my sister-in-law and her apparently now-ex-boyfriend. I would have loved to see that relationship last and perhaps they will come back together again at some point. And whether they do or don't, I hope they both are able at some point to look back on this and find peace with their decision. I just wish I could share the Catholic view of discerning God's will with them right now. And maybe if I have the chance, I will.

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