Submission by Chris Leung
St. Marks, East Longmeadow/Lawrence House Intern 2021-22
“You gotta watch Slumdog Millionaire” my mentor told me, weeks ago when we were discussing my ongoing discernment process. I’m a fan of Marvel so action and adventure are the types of movies I tend to watch. I didn’t get what she meant and how it related to me until I finally watched it.
The main character finds himself on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? In his home country of India, somehow being able to answer every question right due to events that happened to him, from his mother dying, to reading a book with his brother, to seemingly random, painful and unrelated moments in life. It was so coincidental that halfway through the live show, the host had the police arrest him backstage to interrogate him and figure out how a ‘slumdog’ — someone who’s a nobody and poor — knew so much. He responds by explaining his life story. That was all he knew, not answers, but his own past. Ironically, in the end when the final question was revealed, he didn’t know the right answer even when he phoned a friend, yet he still managed to choose the right answer. He risked all the previous prize amounts he could have walked away with, and instead moved forward and made the biggest win in history.
That’s pretty much Slumdog Millionaire. And no, my story doesn’t resemble this — I didn’t win a million dollars! My mentor recommended this movie to me because of the way I explained small details and unrelated things from my past, and they somehow tie in with the importance of my discernment work now. Events of my past have become answers to questions in my present. She wanted me to see the ‘coincidence’ of life situations making sense in the present, and seeing the value of moments big and small as they will eventually aid in decision making, comprehension, and reflection for discernment.
There is nothing more real, more concrete, more practical than the right aids in discerning anything. These aids, I have come to find, really do come from your past. So much of who I am is fabricated in the things I have done, what I like and don’t like, events planned and unplanned for, unwanted experiences and joyous memories. All of our past contributes to needed revelation at the right moment as God seamlessly transcends through our life events and history to inform our present moment and guide us forward.
In these last few months, I lived my own Slumdog Millionaire moment. As I finished Loving the Questions 2020-2021, I was amazed at the variety of journeys my group mates and I were on. Yet we could identify with one another’s situation, relationships, that one job, our upbringing, our aids. We named these things and practiced filtering them through a lens that highlighted our abilities and our paths. Learning to interpret my own sense of calling brought about several realizations, such as “Wow, if I didn’t do this I would have never gotten there,” or “Man, God was watching me this entire time.”
If someone two years ago had asked me to consider being ordained, I would have found that extremely absurd and laughed at them. That was never something I thought of, considered, or even came close to the idea of. But after everything I have gone through to rewire my perspective, renew my spirit, and to humble myself before God, I have come to discern one of the biggest surprises of my life thus far. I discovered a passion for an Anglican tradition that aligns with my own biracial background and upbringing, my sensitivity to the needs of communities and awareness of the transcendent in me ready to act and serve — all of this grew and grew, and started to make sense when I was finally able to begin connecting the dots. This awakening was meant to help me see God walking with me, to trust in him, and lead me to being able to say yes to his path. My ability to not only answer a call and make decisions, but also trust in God while doing so is due to what God has revealed through my past, allowing me to comprehend the way forward by a greater understanding of events and how they are speaking together to give me direction. I’m coming to understand that church is not only a place for worship, not only a place for music, but is a community that I’m being called to shepherd his people through the sacraments and Christ like servanthood as an ordained minister.
That is amazing! It is an unfathomable thing to ponder the workings of our lives, and to make sense of our experiences. This ultimately requires God, for he is the one who gives us purpose, not ourselves. It is God who creates our roadmap to bring us to our destinations. I am made to walk with God as my guide, God as my fuel, and God as my source of understanding. In discernment, if I am to renew my mind and gain wisdom, I must be willing to choose the alternative, the uneasy, the mystery, the new, the change. I must willingly welcome ups and downs, trial and error. Ultimately, I must trust in God as he will reveal to me who and what I am through my growth, the molding of my character, and the strengthening of my foundations.
A willingness to stay open and curious while trusting in God; that’s discernment at its best.