I read a deeply thought out article on vocation and discipleship by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, featured in The Tidings newspaper, titled “The Three Levels of Christian Discipleship”:
There are three major phases in our human and spiritual journey:
-Essential discipleship: The struggle to get our lives together;
-Generative discipleship: The struggle to give our lives away;
-Radical discipleship: The struggle to give our deaths away.
In a nutshell, he explains that we all naturally hit a point in our life that makes us want independence. A Christian approach would be that transition from dependency on parents and their faith, to growing intellectually in our faith to claim it as our own, and start living out our life responsibly by building up a home for ourselves.
The next transition calls the Christian to step away from fulfilling personal needs, and to look outside of the self. Being helpful to strangers, increasing the amount of volunteering done, etc.
The final stage is when a Christian realizes that there needs to be a way that we live out our life so that when we do die, we leave behind a great gift. Not so much an inheritance or a legacy, but an acceptance of all things that come with death: general helplessness like loss of intellect, loss of being able to speak up, feeling “in the way,” or feeling unworthy of all the attention and favors given by both strangers and beloved ones. In a simple phrase, when a Christian accepts their death, they strive in their own capacity not to be a burden on others.
The 3 stages aren’t meant to be compartments to force one’s self to fit in, but more like general objectives. Even better, they help frame the main questions we could ask of ourselves to enrich our life and gauge our journey in the faith.
On a personal note, I’m in the second stage. I’m yearning to give my life away. I ache for it. The difficulty is that I never really completed the first stage, that whole process of finding a full-time job, a place to live, a woman to marry.
Or better yet, it’s not so much that I didn’t finish the first stage, but that I’ve decided to merge the first and second: I want to make a career of giving my life away. I want to be able to have a family and home while primary serving others.
And so the idealist in me lives on, continuing to search, continuing to hope.
Find out more of Rev. Ron here: www.ronrolheiser.com