Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
April 26, 2010
Discernment includes God in your decisions
Life can interrupt destroy a carefully crafted career path
PAT DESNOYERS, FCJ
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Many decisions we make in our lives are made quickly. They may be highly influenced by others, based upon circumstances around us, or made without a lot of reflection. We can often let life happen.
When it comes to making important decisions in our lives, "letting life happen" can mean that the decisions may not come out of our deeper beliefs and desires.
I have often met people who say, "Did you become a sister because you couldn't find a man?" or to a young woman who was questioning religious life, but then met a man and got married; "Looks like he came along just in time!"
These comments seem to come from the idea that circumstances caused these major decisions rather than the decisions coming from a secure place within us.
We need to look at all aspects of our life, including our relationship with God, when making important decisions. When we include God in our decision-making process, we discern.
To discern is to consider all the factors both within us and beyond us and hear what God is saying in and through them. Prayer is an important part of this process. What is God saying to us in the depths of our being? What is God revealing to us through the power of prayer?
God also speaks in our day-to-day life, through the events of our lives, our talents, inclinations and desires. Discernment includes keeping in mind the people, circumstances and environment that are part of our life. What is God saying in and through them?
Some people can experience a call, a deep conviction beyond their own desires that seems to be leading them in a particular direction. This can be a strong movement of the Spirit, as if God is knocking on our door and we need to answer.
For others, a choice may not be as clear or evident and discernment can help clarify where God may be leading us.
Discerning life decisions takes time. It often helps to share our discernment process with someone, preferably someone objective that cares but does not necessarily have something to win or lose in the process.
A spiritual director is someone who can often be that objective sounding board. Speaking our story out loud and having someone, like a spiritual director, truly listen in truth and prayer can help us hear even more deeply what God may be saying.
Many people I have met often think that discerning God's will is discovering a will that is outside of us. God's will is actually planted deep within us and is not in opposition to our deepest desires. We can often cover up these desires with superficial wants or satisfactions or with whatever may mask our true selves. When we discern, we are invited to take off the masks and stand honestly in front of a God that loves us infinitely.
When we have completed our discernment process, the confirmation of this decision comes with a sense of deep peace. Peace is a sign that our decision is in keeping with who we are. It is not a momentary approval of a decision but leaves us with a lasting sense of at oneness with the decision.
THEN LIFE HAPPENS
Life evolves and is not static. Therefore, not all that we discern may come to be. Some things can happen that are out of our control. What we have discerned may not be possible with the people in our lives or the structures or circumstances that surround us.
The person that we believe we are to marry may never come into our lives. We may be diagnosed with a terminal illness and never be able complete the law degree that we believed would enable us to help the poor and disadvantaged. The religious order we wish to join may not say yes.
Life does happen. But as God worked through us in the discernment process, God does not abandon us at this point. Rather we are invited into a deeper trust where we need to once again listen deeply to what God may be asking of us now and respond with the same integrity that led us to this place.
(Sr. Pat Desnoyers, a sister with the Faithful Companions of Jesus, is co-chair of the Edmonton Archdiocese Vocation Committee.)
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