I appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to plan new experiences in my life. Preparation, for me, sparks imagination to envision what each new season as a religious sister — like the shift from summer to fall that we are living in right now — may bring. I trust that God will be with me each day (as we know from Jeremiah 29: 11-13), whether my plans come to fruition or unexpected events put me on a completely different route.
Image courtesy freeimages.com
Such imagination, in fact, reflected light upon a particularly uncertain time in my life — during my discernment. I was in graduate school at the time and had spent my spring break visiting FSPA in La Crosse, Wisconsin. While spring was in full bloom at home it was definitely still winter 500 miles north at St. Rose Convent. The windows of the train I was riding frosted up and, wishing for a warm blanket, I tightened my jacket closer around my shoulders. How do people survive with so much cold and snow and ice?
St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin
Later, while sharing my positive experiences with FSPA with my spiritual director, I also launched into my seemingly ordinary yet significant concern (to me) about the weather. She challenged me to engage my imagination. In addition to her ministry as a spiritual director she was also an artist and knew that imagination can be an essential tool. “What would it be like to live in a colder climate, where winters are longer and more severe? What would you need to live there?” She then asked me to reflect on my visit: was there heat in the building? Would I be warm and comfortable should I choose to discern there? Well … of course.
Her questions helped me envision navigating a big change which surfaced as weather but, in reality, was also about experiencing a cultural change. That transition (which I wasn’t sure I really wanted) became a gift of God’s grace.
I’ve now survived several Wisconsin winters. I’m still not a huge fan of the cold and the snow but weather conditions have faded into the background of life (not at the forefront). And I now also know, in addition to visiting and learning about each community you consider, how important imagination can be in discerning religious life. It allows us to ponder life choices in a variety of contexts and consider exploring the invitation from God. Imagination is a tool that can help move us from fear to freedom.
Who do you imagine you will be tomorrow, next week, next year? Who will you live and work with? What would it be like to move across the country, or internationally, to pursue your vision? What is the adventure stirring right now in your heart?
How is your imagination a tool in your discernment?
*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link and join the conversation at www.fspa.org/showmeasign.