Dear Pope Francis,
I have been noticing a distinct trend in my conversations with people and many of the posts on LTP lately: discernment keeps popping up. Discernment is a bit of a buzz word right now; it seems like everyone is using it! I shouldn’t be surprised by this, since discernment is a big component of Ignatian spirituality (which is a big part of my prayer life and time at school), and many of my friends are trying to sort out their next steps. They are seeking to do God’s will as they go forward with their lives.
Using discernment as a buzz word poses a big challenge for me because I fall into the trap of using it as an excuse to not do anything. I have discerned decisions before and in that process God gave me affirmation by providing what I needed to make the transitions and lots of consolation when I needed it most – He gave me a lot of very clear yeses. However, as I wrote before, God has been giving me (and Meredith too) lots of no’s recently. Given these no’s, my instinct is to retreat, thinking: well, God’s not calling me there, so I guess I’d better sit and wait patiently until He tells me what’s next. But that’s not necessarily the answer.
Each discernment process is different, presenting its own challenges and difficult parts. Perhaps most importantly, it requires ongoing work. In earlier times of discernment, I was anxious and impatient as I waited for God’s answer. I wanted to know exactly what he wanted from me, so that I could jump right in and do it. This time, I’m having the opposite problem, I’m having a difficult time figuring out what to do, although I have a very clear sense that I need to do something. Instead of eagerly trying things out, I’m waiting (…and waiting) for God to deliver the answer on a silver platter.
This time, my discernment has led me to re-evaluating my priorities and goals, and trying to sort out my own next steps. Not surprisingly, this requires me to make some changes, like letting go of some activities that aren’t life-giving any more, or trying to be flexible with the changes that are happening in my life. Not surprisingly making these changes also requires some work: I need to talk to some people about scaling back my involvement, or looking for different ways to spend my time which are life-giving. This has involved meeting people, and learning new things, which, even though I love these things, is work. Even though I know that I need to do it, I would much rather hide behind my ‘discernment process’ and wait for God to deliver.
But hiding and waiting isn’t helpful this time; in fact they are almost as treacherous as my “yes, but…” statements. Instead of countering my urge to rush into action with patience, I need to channel even a spark of that enthusiasm I had so that I can get moving. It’s not that my earlier discernment process was wrong; it’s just that I need something different in this discernment process. This time, I’ve got the waiting part down, it’s the doing part that I’m struggling with. Instead of just talking about discernment, it’s time to start doing something about what I’m discovering, especially since I would much rather sit and wait.
Starting to move,
Prayer for Fervour in Thinking of God
O Lord, give us a mind that is humble, quiet, peaceable, patient and charitable, and a taste of your Holy Spirit in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.
O Lord, give us a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervant charity, a love of you.
Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation and all dullness in prayer. Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you, your grace, and your tender compassion toward us.
Give us, good Lord, the grace to work for the things we pray for.
-St. Thomas More