Monday, April 21, 2008

On hunger of various sorts

For most of this academic year, I have fought my calling to a kind of monastic life in Milwaukee. The most visible manifestation of this calling is living and eating alone. I've never done either for a prolonged span; I lived at home, where either Mom or Dad was present for nearly every meal. Then I moved to Michigan State, where I lived in the dorms and took my meals with friends in the Case Hall cafeteria. For a long time, I felt lonely and resisted the loneliness in many ways, not all of them edifying. I complained to Sally when she had plenty enough to do in Ukraine, went out alone at night (never a wise idea), and felt wounded when my new friends paid attention to lifelong, local attachments ahead of me.

I've now embraced the calling to interior reflection, sober living, and habitual prayer. Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen are my best friends; their books point me towards a Christian life that is obedient but not uncritical. I'm happier than I have been in a long time. The essential question of my vocation, though, remains open.

Often, I sense a calling to live in the way of Merton and Nouwen - pastoral care, counseling, study and lecture on God's Word and spiritual topics, menial labor, service to the poor, and healing. The name Jason means "healer", so perhaps I am on to something.

Other times, I feel an inner conviction to keep on the path I have chosen so far - the study of international relations. In this field, I have the ability to do something about world hunger, whether it is feeding the malnourished directly (as a representative of an aid agency or a UN body), lobbying for domestic public policies and better global governance to ensure that the malnourished are fed, or someday helping to draft and implement those policies myself. Nouwen, because he wisely (for him) chose to devote his life to personal ministry, could only write how frustrated he was at the problem; in contrast, I have the opportunity to be God's hands to the hungry.

So the dialogue continues - though I am consciously letting it become less of an inner dialogue and more of a prayer-dialogue between Jesus and I. Readers, I welcome your prayers.

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