Last Sunday, before my family left on vacation, I posted my sermon on the topic of community. One issue that I didn’t address is how to know when God is leading you (or me!) to a new community.
That’s because I don’t really have a good answer.
There have been a few times when I’ve wished I could move on… hit the road… search for greener pastures. Grad school was one of those times. In fact, I would bet that most grad students experience that urge about four years in to their program (assuming that their program is going to last six or seven years). And that’s when it’s important to have a good community around you, because your community (in my case, it was my wife) will tell you that you’re trying to change communities for the wrong reasons.
But what if it really is time to change community? How do you know?
I guess that my best answer is to test things within your community. (Yes – I realize that seems a bit circular.) Talk things over with the people you trust. See if they sense the same leading that you hear. You might use the Jesuit practice of observing feelings of consolation and desolation. And then act in faith, knowing that grace is always available for both right and wrong choices.
In my own life, I’ve sensed for a while that there will be a time when I’ll no longer be in science and will instead focus on a job the involves some kind of Church-related ministry. I think that Ordinary Spouse has a similar sense about her own life. And we note with some interest that we seem to be growing together, serving the Church in similar or complimentary ways, and walking along similar paths spiritually. But we also have a sense that now is not the time when we are to be making changes in our lives, and we are confident that when that time comes, it will be apparent. That’s the sense of consolation that I mentioned above.
One more story about community… a story that occurred the day before I was to preach my sermon. We have developed – not quite a friendship, let’s call it an “acquaintanceship” – with an Indian family that lives on a nearby court. It started because their oldest son rides the bus with our girls. Well, they recently celebrated the birth of their third son and invited us to come to a three-week-old celebration. It was going to be a bit hectic for us, since the party happened the day after Ordinary Spouse returned home after a week away with the girls, one day before my sermon, and two days before our whole family left on vacation.
Well, we arrived and found out that this wasn’t just a small “come and go” party, but was a bit of an event. (I still haven’t fully grasped the significance, but I think that it involved the naming of the child, which occurs after three weeks in that particular culture.) And so, it was going to chew up a good chunk of the afternoon. I started to grumble (in my head) about how I didn’t have time for this, and then realized… my sermon was meant for me.
This is my community.
Thank God for being humbled.