Finding Your Pearl
by Jeff Montgomery
I recently attended a business opportunity meeting, where those attending were presented with information about an opportunity that could lead (eventually) to owning your own franchise of this particular business. At least as interesting as the information presented, at least for me, was the wide range of people - all ages, all colors, graduating college students, people well into their careers - who were all interested in the possibility of controlling their own destiny career-wise.
As I observed all of these people, and remembered my own motives for being there, I was reminded of the following wisdom from Scripture:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and he sells all that he has and buys it" (Matthew 13:45-46).
All of us at the meeting were searching for a pearl, albeit not necessarily of the heavenly kind. For my part, my reasons for being there involved more of a search for freedom from the office politics and frustrations that seem rampant in corporate America. While I don't know the other folks' reasons, I am sure that most of them were searching for that same freedom, or were interested in the potential income the opportunity offered.
For you and me, as faithful Catholics, finding our particular pearl means finding what God's will is for us during our lives here on Earth. God's ultimate will for us is to be pure and holy people, so that we can be with Him in Heaven after we make the great passage. For most of us, that means negotiating a life involving family, friends, finances, and of course work. Some of us are called to the religious life, which has its own challenges, but many of us are called to live in the world. This, of course, means that we need to work.
Some of us are blessed enough to know fairly early on what our vocation is going to be, and we get the education and guidance we need to be able to do that work. Others of us follow a different path, trying different jobs and working for different companies, until we find something that appeals to us and gives us a feeling of meaning and depth. Still others, like me, are constantly searching for that elusive pearl. We may even achieve worldly success in the process, but are left feeling unfulfilled.
So how do we succeed in discerning God's will in regards to our work? Certainly, I'm no expert but some of the following suggestions may help in this process.
First, we must pray. Daily. This may be self-evident, but without that open communication with God we don't stand a chance. I've found that since I started praying a Rosary just about every day that God's will for me has become clearer. Whatever your means of praying, it must be consistent and open.
Some of us may feel that it is not right to pray about ourselves (I always feel somewhat selfish doing this), but God wants us to express our full selves to Him. At every Mass, He gives us all of Himself, and through prayer we can do the same with ourselves. Remember that He wants us to be doing His will as much as we want the same thing.
Secondly, look at the skills and talents that God gave you. He has gifted us all with unique skills and abilities that He expects us to use. Sometimes they are specific - you may have musical talent, or be a great teacher, or feel drawn to medicine as examples - or they may be more general. But there is a place that God wants us to be in order to use these skills.
Related to that is to have people around you that will encourage you to use those skills. If you'll indulge me using myself as an example, throughout my school years I loved music (still do, actually) and did a lot of good things music-wise. But when it came time to make decisions about careers most of the guidance I got lead me toward a traditional business career.
Now, I have no complaints about the life I have, but at times I wonder what it would have been like had I taken the musical path instead of business. Be sure that you have friends, loved ones, counselors, and others that will be honest with you about where your real talent lies.
Thirdly, don't be afraid to try different things, particularly before you get settled down with a family. Sometimes it's apparent early on that a career choice we've made wasn't the right one. Don't be afraid to adjust. Ask God to guide you down the path he wants you to follow, and the choices will be presented to you. They may not always be what you expected, but if you're tuned in with God they'll be the right choices.
Finally, we have to keep in mind that, for some of us, our way is not going to be easy. The talents that God gives us may be needed in situations that we don't find very pleasant. Part of our Catholic tradition recognizes that difficulty and suffering are indeed a valid path to Christ. For reasons that we may never know until we reach Heaven, God puts things in our paths that are particularly hard to deal with. For some of us He keeps giving us difficult situations.
We can find comfort in knowing that God is using these difficult times to shape us into who He wants us to be. Some of us are tougher nuts to crack, but He ultimately wants us to give our lives over to Him and keeps working on us until we get there. We may also be influencing people we never know through the ways that we respond to these difficult situations. God uses our own suffering and difficulties in the lives of others.
Ultimately, the pearl we're looking for isn't found in anything in this world, be it career success, financial success, or material success. The pearl is in our life with Christ, in God's kingdom. We all have this pearl, and through prayer and discernment it will be ours.
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