Pre-Lenten Blues

Fat Tuesday is usually a festive day mixed with paczkis and idealistic thoughts of giving up everything for Lent. However for me, I spent a lot of the time in contemplation and regret.

Between the bills and the job change, that final goal of paying off personal debt becomes harder and harder to reach. $3788 is not a huge amount; it averages to $630 a month. It's a realistic goal, unfortunately being a poker dealer again means I'll be lucky to get $800 a month.

This is not a fund raising blog, nor am I looking for handouts. Part of the reason I'm writing this is because I've chastized myself all day today for money that could have been better spent. I feel bad for leaving the car business, I feel bad for buying Chinese take-out yesterday, I feel bad because I should be free and clear from this problem already.

The reason that I've been so frustrated, even angry, is because it screws with my time table. I will go as far to say that God Himself is messing with my perfect schedule. The "plan" was to leave for Postulancy on August 1 with all debts paid and nothing left behind. Yet each large step comes with its own setback. First were the bills of the apartment ($2500). Then it was a change in job. Then there was the money used for my grandmother's last days ($700). In November I had the trip to ER ($2872). Now I am dealing cards again and making less money.

With each new expense, I feel like God doesn't want me to get to the finish line. I don't feel like I'm being dragged kicking and screaming into a vocation, rather I am running uphill and into the wind. Rather than a path through the woods, I feel like my discernment is a traffic jam: a long, frustrating maze of construction work and flashing lights that are confusing and painful, even though their goal is to make everything better. To think that God is hindering my journey is hurtful, but I'm starting to think that way.

I've talked with my Spiritual Director numerous times about "God's Plan vs. My Plan", and how the two are rarely ever the same. The argument I make is: "I am working towards religious life and eventually ordination, how could this not be His plan?" I never expected God to make this road any easier to travel, but to make it even tougher??? Am I being tested? Is God teasing me?

I realize I can't argue with a supernatural & all-powerful entity. I can't convince God that my way is the best way towards accomplishing this goal. I want to be in Chicago with the Capuchins this Fall. Spiritually, I don't know if that is God's plan for me.

I have to accept that He may have other plans and I'll still be in Grand Rapids on August 2.

I get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I think about it, like I just lost something huge. I don't want to give up, I don't want to admit I can't pay off this debt. I made a living of chasing goals and reaching them. "You can do anything!" is the line I was fed for years.

But I had to admit for the first time that this is something completely different. If God's plan isn't for me to enter Postulancy this year, he has the power to make it so. And I can't fight that, nor can I distrust His plan.

I don't know if the lesson is patience, humility, or perseverence, but my journey is by no means finished. Only a month ago I felt like "coasting" the rest of the way. Now I realize the hardest days of discernment are yet to come. I pray that I am wrong, and will continue to pay off debts and prepare for Postulancy. However if that day comes and it's not in God's Plan, I'm sure I will know.

They told me at the beginning that "discernment without prayer was no discernment at all." Man, were they ever right.

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4 Response to Pre-Lenten Blues

February 6, 2008 at 10:36 AM

I have a friend who has wanted to be missionary all her life. She has tried many times to "go", spent countless hours in prayer about her call to be a missionary all the long not recognizing the call her presence at work and in daily life among the heathens around her IS her missionary work. I find it interesting and maybe a blessing that God keeps us out of trouble just as he guides into our vocation. I think paying the debts off is the right path. I think the other will fall into place.

February 6, 2008 at 7:55 PM

Hang in there. I know how much of a platitude that sounds like - when folks used to say it to me I'd do that "nice polite grin" and say Thank you - and wonder how it the he!! that was going to help.

In the original plan, I was to enter seminary in 2996. God had different intentions. An insurmountable situation presented itself - there was something I needed to do. I prayed, prayed harder, looked for ways around what was arriving in front of my face - I pled with God, begged Him, tested Him, argued with Him...

...and He loved me, accepted me, challenged me...

...and when I surrendered to His will, He continued to call me.

Our vocations aren't ours, not our personal projects, not our ambitions or our doings. I found when I surrendered, truly surrendered, things began to move much more quickly than I was ready for. And they've been going ever since.

Know this - being a 30-something with debt to address before following a vocational calling, I all too well understand. And I am praying for you man. please, just hang on. Whatever God has around that corner, will be better than you could have imagined.

February 7, 2008 at 10:05 PM

Paying off money is always difficult. Especially when you are not making a lot. Perhaps there is some kind of second job that you could pick up to maximize your income over the next few months.
Vocations are tricky things to discern. In my own case I had to learn that my time frame was not necessarily God's In my own case I needed to learn patience, humility, and the true meaning of faith.
I don't know if this is something that applies to you. With God all is possible and if he is calling you then you can and will do this. God Bless!

February 10, 2008 at 7:54 PM

Do you know about the Laboure Society?

Their reason for existance is to help people enter religious life through the remission of financial debt.

Here's the link:

I'm not sure if this is something you've mentioned before or not, but if debt is your biggest concern, then you should give them a call. It's all still in God's hands, but they may be able to help you anyway.

A friend of mine is entering the Convent (a cloister) and has about $25,000 in debt...her entrance date is June 11. I have faith that she will make that deadline.

Please contact them, if you haven't already. If God wants you to enter this community, He will get you there, if it means accepting help from others to do so.