Equipped by the Struggle

Note: This post appeared in the Sunday, November 22, bulletins for St. Michael Catholic Church and the Church of St. Albert.

Some of you know that my bride and I are discerning the diaconate. Many years ago I mentioned becoming a deacon to a priest-friend. His response was that I should focus on my marriage and family, not ordination.

At the time, I took his response as absolute: The diaconate is not for me. Then, several years later, our beloved retired deacon Maynard Warne suggested it to me. I mentioned the priest’s advice, and Deacon Maynard said it might be time to reconsider.

In the years since, multiple people—friends, acquaintances and colleagues—have nudged me toward the diaconate. And I do feel called to serve the Lord in some deeper and more radical way.

But ordination…really?

I am acutely aware of my tendency to disappoint myself, to imagine great things and pursue good ideas that never come to fruition. And I know too well that I struggle to love my wife, children, parents, family and friends as well as I should—let alone loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

What makes me think I could love God’s people as Christ the servant?

People say God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. But sometimes I hesitate to answer His call, because I don’t feel equipped at the time and I don’t trust Him to provide: If you want me to be a deacon, Lord, show me to be deacon material. Help me to be a better husband and father, then maybe I can try something new.

But what if we are equipped in the struggle, by the struggle? What if stepping out in weakness and obedience, suffering humiliation and sacrifices, and persevering through failure and fear, is the way in which He strengthens us for the building the Kingdom?

Isn’t that the way Jesus did it?

And the Church teaches that sacraments affect what they signify—in other words, the sacraments are signs that point to God, and also provide the grace required to follow them back to Him. So if I’m called to become a deacon through the sacrament of Holy Orders, perhaps it’s precisely because God knows I’m not deacon material.

I’m not, but He is.

And the same is true for you: Whatever God is calling you to do, Jesus is up to the task. Begin, struggle, fail and fall, trusting in His words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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