God’s Will or My Own?
Never give up. We hear this phrase all the time. Quitting is associated with failure. Weakness. Settling.
But what if the dream you’re trying to achieve isn’t God’s will?
As I raced through the hallways of St. Mary’s College of California, gathering last minute supplies for our annual campus ministry retreat, I couldn’t help my mind from wandering. The past week was a blur – juggling classes, studying for finals, and applying for jobs, all while making the 120 mile trek to and from Levi’s stadium – home of the San Francisco 49ers football team.
My body was sore, pimples were popping up from all of the make-up I had caked on through the week, and my hair was still stiff from gallons of hairspray. But somehow, I knew it was all worth it. I had made it to the last round of auditions for the 49ers ‘Gold Rush’ cheerleading team – moving forward past group interviews, “bootcamp” rehearsals, and football quizzes. I could see it at my fingertips – the excitement from my family, friends, and dance teachers – when I told them I made the team.
As I was loading up the school van with sleeping bags, food, and students excited for the weekend retreat ahead, I got a text from a friend. The new team roster had been posted. My heart was racing, palms sweating… I opened the email and quickly scanned up and down the list. Once. Twice. Three Times.
My name wasn’t there.
I was crushed. It didn’t make sense. I had worked so hard. Not just the past week, but for my whole life – dancing nearly every day, for the past twenty years.
As soon as we arrived at the retreat center, I found our school chaplain and asked if he had time to chat. He probably would have thought twice, had he known the next hour would turn into a therapy session. Confession quickly turned into a dramatic sob story on how my lifelong dreams of being a professional dancer were over.
He reminded me that I needed to trust in the Lord. At the same time, he told me that if I truly had a desire to keep dancing, then I should continue to pursue that desire.
In my head, this translated to: Don’t give up.
Looking back, the real question I should have asked is: Is this desire my will or God’s will?
Three months later, I found myself at another audition. This time, for the Golden State Warriors dance team. Again, I was cut in the last round.
Finally, a year later, my ‘dream’ came true. Or was it God showing me that this wasn’t his plan for me after all?
Now don’t get me wrong, cheering for the Oakland Raiders was awesome. I met great friends and made memories that I will cherish forever. But it also put a serious strain on my relationship with God (and others) — something I didn’t realize until later.*
My spiritual health (and growth) struggled.
Sunday’s turned from holy days of rest and rejuvenation to 10-hour game days. I stopped teaching catechism and couldn’t make it to daily mass anymore. My prayer life soon became non-existent. And while I managed to make it to mass on Saturday nights, I often found myself distracted or dozing off during the most important parts of the mass.
My physical health struggled.
Late practices and early mornings for my full-time job led to very little sleep, which meant I was always getting sick. I wasn’t making time for proper meals either, and continued to lose weight as the season went on.
My mental health struggled.
I was more addicted than ever to social media. I couldn’t wait to post the next cheerleading picture — eager to see how many ‘likes’ it would get . Not to mention, the constant comparison to other girls who seemed far more beautiful than I.
My relationships also struggled. I nearly missed my brother’s wedding for one of our big games (and was shocked that he didn’t plan it around my schedule). And while I felt called to the vocation of marriage, I didn’t prioritize my relationship in the slightest.
Long story short, I was the most selfish I had ever been. And I was focused on all the wrong things.
If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t necessarily change this experience, but I do wish I would have asked myself a few things sooner. Hopefully these questions will help you, too, if you are discerning whether you should continue pursuing a specific career, relationship, or anything else.
- When I am ___ (insert job, hobby, relationship, etc), am I being the best version of myself?
- Is my spiritual, mental, or physical health suffering in any way?
- Is ___ inhibiting me from “reaching” my vocation?
- Is ___ increasing my temptation to sin?
- Is the happiness I feel from ___, true happiness? Or is it coming from material things like money, fame, popularity, etc.?
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from St. Benedict:
“No one should follow what he considers to be good for himself, but rather what seems good for another. Let them put Christ before all else; and may he lead us all to everlasting life.”
*Quick Disclaimer: My discernment happened when I auditioned for what would have been my 2nd season on the Raiderettes, but was cut. I finally took time to pray about whether or not this was God’s will for me. Over the next year, it became crystal clear. If this was pulling me further away from Christ, then how could it be God’s will? Since then, I have still been able to share my love for dance with others — but this time, through teaching 🙂
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