By Jesus Puentes
Imagine this: You are walking along a path outside, surrounded by trees and wilderness; it’s dark, and dawn is just breaking; your eyes are wide open, and you search all around you for any light that could guide you down the path. Sometimes you try to run, but end up crashing into something or tripping over a stone, and other times you walk very slowly, trying to avoid every possible obstacle, and trying to feel every edge and contour of the path.
Still other times you are completely still, unable to move; you just look all around, and wonder when it will be daytime, so that you can see ahead. It’s somewhat strange, because you can see, far ahead of you, the dim light just barely creating a contrast with the horizon, yet you can’t see the road that is only a few feet in front of you.
I’ve just described to you my own experience of searching for God’s will in my life, but more specifically, I’ve just described to you the journey to find my vocation. I dare say on behalf of many young men and women, that this kind of experience is shared among many of us, and it can be almost summed up with one persistent, aching question: “God, what do you want?!” I say that this almost sums it up, because there is another side to this, another question (among many more), and that is: “God, am I willing to do what you want?” Of course, there are many other ways that young people experience this journey, ranging from absolute apathy, to total clarity (I wish this were my situation), to constant and unending interior battles and doubts and questions (but instead, I fall somewhere closer to here). But I speak, for now, mostly to the reality of those of us who are plagued with insecurities along the way, those of us who have these vague longings to see, in the present moment, the person that we are called to become, yet whom we cannot yet see.
So, what to say for ourselves (“Millennials”) in the face of the generations who survived and thrived after the Second World War, who then continued building this nation with their own hands, who saw the end of racial segregation in this country, and the fall of the Soviet Union? Have compassion! Some would say that they didn’t have the privileges and commodities that we millennials have come to inherit from their labor, so we have much less about which to complain, and they would be right to say so. But what I ask is that if you are of those generations, remember the darkness you once walked in your youth, the questions, the longings, the insecurity, and the fears; you had your own share of this with the kinds of situations you faced. Now imagine having –literally—an entire world of different voices telling you what you should be, what you should want, and who you should become, and then you have our generation. Our struggles, then, may not be the same as yours, but they are real, and they are very much influenced by the Internet, and the other forms of mass media. So whereas we don’t have to worry about the threat of world war (we hope), we were born into a society in which we are valued by what we have, and by whether or not we accept the increasingly “liberal” values that are presented to us by mainstream media. That said, it’s hard for us not to be in darkness about our identity, about who God has called us to be.
But that is where you come in. So I say, whether or not other millennials like this, by all means, have the courage to correct us! Help us to see what we are doing wrong, and tell us about what you did to overcome your obstacles, and to become the men and women we have come to admire as our parents and grandparents, as our heroes. But if you’re going to do so, then have the humility to recognize your own mistakes, and the decency to approach us from the standpoint of a person who understands suffering, and who reaches out in love to those in darkness, not as one who would quickly throw this generation into the fires of Hell. Then it will be easier for us to listen.
In Part II of this reflection next month we’ll talk more about the experience of this path, and what things give us strength and present challenges as we walk along it. Again, real conversation is welcome here, so my E-Mail is just below. I’ll catch you next month in Up and Coming!
Jesus Puentes is a third year philosophy student at the University of California, Riverside and Volunteer Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at St. Mary Parish, Fontana.