React or Respond? S. Janet Gildea poses this question in the April edition of e-Voc.
What would you say: Do you tend to be more of a reactor or a responder to God in your life? This is good information for discernment. Most of us have known both experiences. When God’s will suddenly becomes clear – or sort of crashes in on us – we react! Think of Saul thrown from his horse, blinded and hearing the voice of Jesus calling his name and saying, “Why are you persecuting me?” He had not much choice but to react! The Samaritan woman at the well was also in a reactive mode when Jesus interrupted her midday journey to the well. “Who do you think you are? You don’t even have a bucket and you’re telling me you’ll give me living water?”
Saul and the Samaritan woman were in very different situations, both of which can be common in discernment. Saul was on the offensive, feeling strong and sure that he was on the right path, even as he persecuted the followers of The Way. The Samaritan woman was busy trying to avoid the encounter with the Holy One. In each case, God broke through their defenses, eventually winning their hearts and inviting a free response from a less guarded position.
There is another option. I recently heard Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI suggest an image of God as a mother coaxing her child to take first steps. Hands outstretched, smiling face, voice encouraging and affirming … “Come on! You can do it! Hooray for you!” How beautiful is this God who invites us to respond, never coercing or forcing! This is the God we read about in the prophet Hosea: “Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; but they did not know that I cared for them. I drew them with leading strings of love, I fostered them like those who raise an infant to their cheeks; I bent down to feed them” (11:3-4). This is the God who invites us to respond without fear, confident that we are the beloved ones. This is the God we know in Jesus, inviting Zaccheus down from the tree and calling Mary’s name in the garden.
During this month that finishes Lent and invites us into the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, wherever you find yourself on the discernment journey, take time to consider your stance before God. Are you in a position that requires you to react or that invites you to respond?