I was recently talking with a friend of mine about discernment, and I happened to stumble upon this analogy.
Maybe it was the picture of Pope Paul VI that my pastor gave me which is hanging in my room and staring down at me.
Maybe it was the Scripture passage lingering in my friend’s mind, the passage of Peter going out to meet Jesus walking on water.
Maybe it was because I was really hungry and forgot to eat lunch. (Note: most likely.)
But I thought up this analogy.
First, some background.
Being in the Bishop Simon Brute college seminary, I have been both discerning and not discerning at the same time. Discerning by nature that I am in a seminary for at least one purpose of discerning my place in life as called by God. Not discerning because I am simply trying to live the life and discern passively, not got too caught up in where I’m going so much as where I am. For me, the essence of discernment has to do with the question, not the answer. I believe that I will find the answer; I am searching for the question. To find the answer, I must first seek the question.
All that fun stuff.
Now, as I spoke to my friend, we were talking about how to discern when the discerning gets tough. When the pressure comes crashing down, and you need to make a decision and make it soon. How does one continue to trust in God when one feels completely and totally lost? How do I trust in God to guide me when I have no idea as to where I am or where I’m going?
I love cake. I adore cake. I see cake as a higher calling of dessert, a unique and beautiful creation, flour-based, butter-enhanced, sugar-coated. My family has an unnatural and possibly unhealthy passion for those little icing flowers they put on cakes. It’s a fight…literally, a battle…over who gets to eat the flower off the cake. My dad almost always wins.
We are very much like cakes.
At least, the really, really weird ones.
Like banana cake. It’s mushy, it’s sticky, it spends more time glued to your teeth than it does on your taste buds.
Or Jell-O cake. Jell-O is Jell-O. Cake is cake. You don’t mix these things.
Or carrot cake. How can a cake made out of vegetables be any good? It’s an oxymoron.
Yet these are my father’s three favorite cakes (in order of least to greatest), and I can’t say I necessarily despise these (I can say I would risk facing my father’s wrath to eat the last piece, such is my love for them.)
But there are even weirder cakes. For example, lime-flavored strawberry dacqueri creampuff crumble cake (the example I gave my friend.) I have never in fact eaten this cake, (it sounds amazing) but you all know that one person who tries to make really weird cakes like that. But how do you think that person must feel when he’s making the cake? (For the sake of political correctness, he’s a ‘he,’ and his name is Herbert.)
Herbert is making the cake…but he has no idea what it’s going to taste like. He really hopes it will be good. The “creator” of the recipe said it would be. He wants to trust the creator, and he believes throughout the entire time he is preparing the cake, that it will be good. Occasionally, Herbert may feel the need to improve on the recipe by adding something different. But throughout his preparation, his seeking for this delicious flavor, his discernment of the cake he feels called to prepare, he believes that it will taste good.
And when Herbert takes it out of the oven, he tastes it.
And it was good.
We are like cakes. We do not know what we are called to be, we do not know how we will be made good. But we trust that we will be made good, and we try our hardest to be made good, like when Herbert added something that he thought would make the cake good.
Peter is the ultimate cake. Throughout Scripture, he is the ultimate flub. He doubts. He questions. He bursts with uncontrollable passion. He sins. He falls.
But in all this, Peter continues to strive for goodness. His hope in the Lord brings him through all these, and in the end, he is made good. He is made into the basis for the entire Catholic Church, the foundation, the rock. Peter represents the Church, the pope, all bishops, all priests. Peter represents us, the Church, in all our faults, in all our failures. But with the hope of God, we are made good. We believe that we will be made good.
We are cakes.