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Spirit-Centered Moment: by Rev. Manda Truchinski

Written by Rev. Manda Truchinski

Assistant to the Bishop, Sierra Pacific Synod

When I was in college I lived with a seminarian for a few months while I was also engaged in an immersive learning experience. Lots of things were new to me that summer. It was hard, but in a good way. I had the safety of a known timeline and all the privilege of who and where I had come from, but I was also immersed in a new world. Not every experience was new, but it was like someone had swapped the lenses in my glasses and even those things I thought I knew were different now.

The seminarian was kind enough to talk through this with me. I began to wonder about and for the first time believed that I could choose what was valuable in my life. The seminarian recycled some wisdom (as I later learned we pastors do) and told me: The way to know what matters is to ask yourself "Would I die for this?"

That was just the dramatic thing I needed to hear to break through the shell of my own ego and anxiety and pluck my heartstrings. Even to this day, I ask myself this question when I am discerning. You might think it leads me to separate everything in the world into two categories: Things I will die for / Things I will not die for, but no. Instead, it draws me into the complexity of the decisions that lie ahead of me. My query goes a little like this:

This is important to me.

But why?

Where did I come to the idea that this is or should be important?

Is it a feeling?

Is it something I was taught?

Do I like this? Why?

What is valuable about this that I do not like?

What makes me think I would be effective here?

Is it something I want or something I'm obliged to do or something I wish I could do or....

Why is that the case? Where does that come from?

Am I hurting anyone by doing this?

Is there someone more gifted than I? Or someone that could be lifted up instead of me?

Is there any other way that I could honor God?

I mean, as you can see, this could go on forever. It doesn't go on forever. Often I have to do the best I can with what I have. Though, this self-examination is important to my discipleship. It's my war plan, my blueprint making, or whatever other analogy Jesus used to talk about how the plans of our lives might align with the purposes of God. It's how I discern whether my actions are the response to God's grace that I want them to be.

I only hope that my plans align with God more than they do with my own ego and anxiety. What I know from this Gospel story and the whole context of the people of God is that life is abundant when our plans align with God's ways. It's abundant not only for me but for everyone around me. I won't achieve that every time. Maybe not even half the time. I try to learn and repent from my mistakes, and they inform my discernment going forward. Pretty soon, this looks like that race that Paul described in all his letters.

A prayer of Thomas Merton

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always though, I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my struggles alone. Amen."

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