Traveling across the country, meeting a variety of people in and around the world of discernment, I encounter two questions—open ended, probably pervasive in all aspects of life—time and time again:
“How long will this take?”
“How will I know?”
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And I've actually been faced (more than once) with the plea, “Can’t you just tell me what to do?”
Of course, I have no direct answer to provide to a discerner of religious life, no magic words to give. Discernment carries mystery within it. It’s not a step-by-step process that if followed will yield a nice shiny product of a vocation. It’s the industrial model that one has to let go of. Each step is different and what worked for someone else may not work for you. There is no assembly line cranking out one-size-fits-all discernment t-shirts.
Timing is another open-ended aspect that varies from person to person. Comparison is not helpful. You may have started a discernment process at the same time as someone else and their movement may appear to be faster or slower. But it’s not a competition. Running or dragging your feet to keep the same pace as someone else is not an authentic experience. Trees, each having within itself a sense of when it’s ready to let go of its leaves, are an excellent example of this statement. Two trees of the same variety planted side by side sometimes have totally different timings; one drops its leaves early and the other may hold on for a few weeks longer. In the end they will both move on in the season, just not dependent upon each other. It is humans who place judgment on the difference.
Questions to ponder this week…
Are you more concerned about the getting there and the need to know the answer than participating in the unfolding of your discernment experience?
How are you comparing or competing in your discernment?
Are you finding more questions? Click here to view resources for discerning religious life.