Vacation from vocation?
Discerning the true Path to Greatness.
As a boy, I enjoyed the game of football immensely; and as a high school junior, I mustered enough courage to start as a defensive secondary for my school’s team. My only real disadvantage was that I measured at an intimidating 5’1.5” and weighed in at a solid 114 lbs. (That half inch really meant a lot to me.) I literally played against guys twice my body weight. What could have inspired me (or possessed me) to believe that a small-fry like me could contend with the heavyweights?
Existing within almost every man is an instinctive desire for conquest, to be challenged—to be a competitor. This desire, as we age, does not disappear as much as it becomes dormant, or sometimes can reappear in wild, irresponsible, immature ways.
Some have proposed that to be a “real man” is to be on an adventure, to have a battle to fight, to have a beauty to win. While it’s true that most men desire adventure, envision themselves in battles and dream of winning the beauty, these ideas if acted upon outside of a proper context can lead us down a path that potentially places our souls, our lives, our wives and our children in jeopardy.
If being a man is determined by being on an adventure, engaging battles and winning beauties, then who determines the adventure, the battle, the beauty? At the bottom of the idea of embarking upon adventures, engaging battles and winning beauties is the idea that pursuing these things helps a man overcome his fears, his insecurities, his inner-weakness and gives him the confidence to be a real man.
In my pursuit of becoming a real man, I may continue to jump from higher cliffs, step in the ring with stronger fighters and desire more beautiful women (or at least desire that my wife become that woman). By following this reasoning, however, I am simply hunting down a phantom, an illusion that I call manhood; I am simply chasing the ghosts of my fears, while never overtaking them.
There will always be higher cliffs, stronger men, more beautiful women; and even if I achieve these ideals, they only provide a false impression of self-confidence—a confidence that is derived from myself. This, in the end, is pride, and as the proverb says, “before the fall comes pride.”
Call it mid-life crisis, finding yourself, or following dreams, but many a man’s family has been overturned, his filial relationships burned, if not destroyed, or his marriage trampled under by his chasing such illusive dreams. So often our ideals, which seem right in our minds, can become our idols. Without accepting divine Logic breathing its Word of guidance into our hearts, there is a real danger that we will vainly attempt to define these ideals by ourselves.
The truth is that within the soul of each and every father, whether or not he realizes it, desires it, or believes that he has lost it, exists an authentic, divinely ordained desire for glory. You and I , as men, as fathers, are created by God to glorify God, and by glorifying God we will be glorified by God. We all desire glory, greatness and fulfillment because God has planted this desire within our hearts. The question is: what is the proper context for a man’s adventure, his battle and obtaining his beauty? How does he achieve glory?
The true man is not “out there,” hiding in the wilderness, lost on some lonely, weathered mountain—but rather “in here,” deep inside each of us. The battle is not “outside” of us as much as “inside” each of us. God has already established the battle, the path, the adventure: it is our vocation. If we are men, we are called to be spiritual husbands who set the pace of self-giving love for the bride; we are called to be fathers who spiritually adopt our children. This is our divinely ordained path to personal greatness, happiness and fulfillment. If you are a husband and father, this is your path to glory, and no other path will be granted.
Often, by chasing after imaginary adventures, searching for battles and winning beauties, we choose to escape the true adventure, the real battle: our adventure as husbands and fathers; and often, we seek to escape the real beauty: our wives, or the Bride, the Church. We seek a vacation from the vocation, the great adventure instead of the adventure which actually makes us great.
St. Joseph, after discovering the Virgin pregnant without his cooperation, initially fled from his call to greatness—from his vocation. Yet Joseph entered the silence, presented his dilemma to God, and in that prayer received his mission, his adventure and the direction to set the pace of self-giving love for the true beauty—Mary. St. Joseph did what all of us are called to do: we are to retrace our steps heroically and return to our post to become the guardians, defenders and heroic lovers of our wives and children. The salvation of every man’s soul depended upon Joseph’s reclaiming his call to greatness by becoming a father to the Son of God. Today, the salvation of our broken world, and the souls of every child depend upon our embracing and engaging our vocation and becoming like St. Joseph: fathers on earth like the Father in heaven.