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The Parable of Being a Sheep

My roommate once told me a story about a class he was in where one of his classmates wouldn’t answer a yes or no question because he “didn’t believe in binaries.” The professor was really just looking for a yes or no answer but was not getting either response. What my roommate said at the end of the story was, probably unintentionally, incredibly profound. He said, “I was thinking this whole time, ‘dude, just be a sheep. Baaaah. Just be a sheep.’” That phrase, “just be a sheep” has stuck with me. Before you think I’m advocating for blind trend-following, let me explain. I took that phrase, thought about it, and did my best to make it something that I think could be beneficial to the process of discernment. My version of sheep-being is the phrase, that I use surprisingly often, “just buy in.” Let me be clear, buying in does not apply to anything and everything because one cannot, and very likely should not, buy into every opportunity. I use it when I’m in a rut discerning what to do in a given situation with reasonable, pertinent background information already in place.

In his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola tells us repeatedly to pay attention to our feelings. Where do we feel God? When we felt God, what did God feel like to us? Questions like this, in Ignatius’s view, allow the heart to become more attuned to the will of God and the needs of our neighbors. I, myself, have had plenty of opportunities to “buy in.” Arguably the grandest scale has been buying into the Fellowship. In the spirit of pure honesty, I had no idea if I was going to like the Fellowship. I had seen the videos of testimony and browsed the website and heard the praises of, “it was like this program was made for me,” “it changed my life,” “we all immediately connected.” Armed with a healthy dose of philosophy-major-level skepticism, I went about preparing (last minute of course. Shoutout to all the P’s) to leave for the Fellowship.

Traveling with Luis, the one who told me about the Fellowship, who was about as bought into the Fellowship as a human being can be, was both inspiring and nauseating. Being that we were on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of optimism towards our fast-approaching month of experiences, I was in a bit of a bind to say the least. Once we made it into Atlanta for our layover and settled in for the wait, after Chick-fil-A, a beer, and some honest conversation (which cures anything and I will not hear dissent on this opinion), I decided I had two options: 1. Hang back and wait to see how things go before deciding my interest level (my go-to option previously) and 2. Decide that my experience will be as enjoyable as I make it, and I can dictate a large part of the outcome’s potential positivity by how open I am to committing to seeing the positives of the CWF. In true Ignatian fashion, I broke down my options and realize three things: 1. My first option of waiting it out is fairly nebulous and I don’t have a lot of certainty with it or control over it. 2. My second option has much more certainty than the first one, allowing me to own my experience with a greater degree of autonomy and openness. 3. Ignatius says that when confronted with a nebulous option and a definitive option, the definitive option is the way to go. Bonus realization #4: I am, in fact, not smarter nor closer to God than Ignatius of Loyola (yet). In that moment of chicken-induced joy and Blue Moon/Luis-induced self-reflection, the choice couldn’t be clearer. The answer was radical trust. Radical trust that God had brought me to the Fellowship for reasons I did not yet understand (and am still only beginning to unpack), and in that moment I was filled with hope and absolutely terrified. As someone who prefers and enjoys a reasonable level of control in life, ceding complete control to God and saying, “Alright, put me where you need me, and I’ll do my part” is equal parts frustrating and humbling. It turned out that I was exactly correct: I was both frustrated and humbled during my time in Germany and Rome, but in only the best, most beneficial ways.

When we place radical trust in God, the most difficult things may be put in our path, but when we conquer the darkness of our fears, we are given the opportunity to experience the beautiful sunrise of God’s love that can only be seen after passing through the blackest parts of night. Listening to God with the fullness of our hearts, giving everything to Him, will at times make us feel vulnerable, scared, even like an absolute fool (although maybe that one is just me), but the glory of His majesty infinitely outweighs the size of our deepest fears.

My challenge to you, brothers and sisters of the Fellowship, is to take a step towards what scares you. We all have those feelings deep in our hearts that we know are from God, but nonetheless can leave us petrified. I challenge you to take one deliberate step towards that desire, and I challenge you to do it today. Marcus Aurelius said, “No situation is better suited for the practice of philosophy than the one you are now in.” While he is completely right (and philosophers don’t get enough love), I would like to amend that statement here and say no situation is better suited for running to God’s love than the one you are now in. God wants your insecurities, worries, doubts, and every bit of what makes you who you are; everything you are afraid to give to Him is what makes Him love you infinitely and uniquely. Take that one deliberate step, friends, and leap over your fears into the arms of our loving God and know that I will be making that leap with you. God puts desires in our hearts for a reason, so let us together radically “buy in” to the God who bought into us with His ultimate sacrifice and let us do it today.

All my love,

Joe Coleman

CWF ‘18

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