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A few days ago I went to my optometrist for my annual eye exam. I knew what to expect: cover one eye; read the chart; cover the other eye; repeat the process.
Next the optometrist put me behind a machine that precisely defines vision: a series of lenses (beginning with blanks) through which letters are revealed in quick clicks back and forth in front of my eyes while the optometrist fires off rapid questions. Repeat the process.
It’s at this point in the procedure I hit sensory overload and could not tell the difference between one lens and the next. But I had to remind myself some experiences require quick decisions. I pushed myself to squint harder; to narrow the lenses down to two that seemed to work and appeared to be similar; both potentially the right fit.
Religious discernment also calls for scrutinization and elimination and resolution—finding the right fit. If you get stuck, perhaps between two communities that invite your interest, unable to find your way forward, perhaps a simple list of pros and cons could be a helpful tool. You will have to decide what weight each item carries as these conclusions do not work themselves out as simple math equations. Prioritize your list. Evaluate your thoughts and look for patterns. For example: are you focusing too hard on where you will live on mission instead of how you will live in ministry? Are you willing to give in to indecisiveness and shut down the process completely?
What happens when you are called to a conclusion; that there are perhaps two communities that speak to your sensibilities? It's time for a visit. Try on your metaphorical lenses. Look up close and personal into the community’s mission, governance and many more details to see what excites you.
And once you get there remember that stepping over the threshold to a Come and See doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. It’s simply an opportunity for mutual discernment to begin; time for you to learn more about the community and the community—with its specific vision for mission— to learn more about you. Both parties have the right to decide if membership is a good fit or not. And other opportunities may appear: a vocation minister may suggest another community for you to explore after learning what you are looking for. It’s not a bad thing but a good opportunity for refining your discernment.
It takes courage to visit and even more to discern which way of religious life, if any, is right for you. Invite God into all the experience. Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit will guide you.
Are you brave enough to take the next step?
Is it time for you to send an email or pick up the phone?
Sister Amy Taylor is the FSPA director of membership. She invites you to call or write (1-888-683-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org) anytime!