Do you know who God wants you to be in your life? If so – that’s awesome! If not, then you’re probably in the process of discernment. Even if you have an idea of who or what God is calling you to be – you’re still probably discerning things.
The process of discernment is continual and lifelong. It’s not something just for those wondering if they’re called to the priesthood, or to religious life, marriage, etc. Sure – you discern your overall vocation. That’s a given. But you also discern more. A lot more. And it can be the little paths of discernment that take the most time and the most out of you.
Look at CCC Paragraph 2826
By prayer we can discern “what is the will of God” and obtain the endurance to do it. Jesus teaches us that one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing “the will of my Father in heaven.”
We use prayer to discern what the will of God is for us in our lives. LOTS of prayer. I remember how much I prayed as a highschool sophomore, trying to figure out what I needed to do to help my own peers be able to know and grow in their faith, and how it was through that prayer that I came to know I needed to write.
And sometimes, our process of discernment can lead us to figuring out that we were trying to force things that aren’t part of our calling at all. They might be very good things, very great things even, but not what God actually calls us to do. In discernment, we can distinguish from our actual calling, what we want to be called to do, and what we’re making ourselves ‘be called to do’.
Think about those three things:
What we want to be called to do. This is a tough one. We all have these hopes and dreams, these ideas of what our lives would be like if we lived in our perfect world, right? We look for those opportunities and struggle to give them up when they don’t work. This figures into our process of discernment….because our discernment can lead us to letting go of those dreams. Not saying goodbye, not giving up, but letting go of what isn’t for us or what isn’t for now. For me that included letting go of the idea that I’d be able to be a screen-writer. Seems kinda silly, I know. But I had to let go of that when I decided which college I’d go to, because I had two options that would have taken me drastically different places. I let go of the one that would have allowed me to pursue that dream – to take up the one that brought me closer to my calling from God.
It’s not easy. Discernment isn’t easy. But it’ll help lead us to joy.
Now for the next one, what we’re making ourselves ‘be called to do’, it’s one I struggle with a lot in deciding how I’m going to spend my time. And it means some tough decisions are actually coming up, very soon. Sometimes when we pray or when we think about our future, we take note of things we’ve seen or heard of – that might not be top on our list of favorite careers, but they sound good and like something we could do. So we start picturing ourselves in those roles. We start looking for signs and signals that it’s what we’re “called to do”, anything can fit and we become certain that we’re doing exactly the right thing.
And then it’s not. As T.S. Elliot put it, “The last temptation is the greatest treason. To do the right thing, for the wrong reason.”
I’ve given into that temptation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been noticing I do that a lot. I make myself “be called” to do x, y, or z, because maybe it’s what my friends are doing? What other people want me to do? The reasons differ, but they’re never a right reason.
Often, what we make ourselves ‘be called to do’ is something incredibly good. Something that society needs or that people need, and it’s a need we can help fill! So we fill the space like a puzzle piece that’s not correct – forcing ourselves into the mold that is shaped for another. And, like those tricky puzzle pieces, it’s hard to tell that we don’t exactly fit because – at the moment – everything else looks right.
As my mom puts it, if she was to spend hours every day volunteering at the soup kitchen – it’d be a good thing. But if doing that meant she couldn’t be at home with her kids – it isn’t the right thing. Her calling right now is to be here for her kids (all 6 of us) and to homeschool my little siblings.
What we make ourselves hear, or make ourselves feel ‘called’ to do, can be something good.
But it’s not our place. We fit in God’s plan somewhere else.
Discernment is ultimately about figuring out what God is calling us to do. For us to have the endurance and courage to actually do what it is we’re called to do, able to do the right things for the right reasons.
Most of the time it’s framed in the discussion of priesthood and religious life. Which is awesome, and we do need to discern that – but we also need to discern other things. What degree should I pursue? What is God calling me to right now? What do I need to remove from my life so that I can devote myself more fully to being who God wants me to be?
Tough questions. Sometimes with tough answers. But we can trust. We can find peace in the process and understanding through prayer. And maybe get over the fear that those around us will judge us harshly for changing something about what we do.
For me – I’ve been praying and asking God to show me the next step, because I’ve been running away for a while now and want to stop. I just need to know which direction to go. And not be scared to give Him my continual ‘yes’. Sometimes I think I figure it out and then a rug gets pulled from my feet, or 5 metaphorical doors seem to open at once – and I can just choose 1. It’s hard. But, like I said, we can trust. He won’t abandon us, and He always calls us back to the path we need.
Pray every day to be open to hearing God’s call. He can call us in all manner of ways, in all manner of actions, we just have to listen.