Discernment is not just about big decisions. Discernment is a spiritual art, an attitude of seeking God’s will that we can take into our daily life. As our relationship with God deepens and grows, discernment naturally seems to become more and more a part of our daily life, even to our daily decisions. Even the small decisions can have untold influence on the story of our lives or the lives of others.
When I first wondered if I was called to religious life, I thought discernment was a one-time thing I needed to do—to discover my vocation. I believe that God gently led my young self through the steps of discernment, and I entered religious life. I thought I had finished discerning.
But as I traveled further into religious life, I found that, even when I finished my initial discernment regarding my vocation (which lasted several years), I had to continue discerning within my vocation. Especially when I was confronted by large questions, such as being asked to take on a particular assignment, I felt the need to discern God’s will. I wanted to live God’s story for me, so I brought these big questions to prayer and discerned, within the context of my vow of obedience, which apostolic work was God’s will for me.
Gradually, I started to feel the need to discern smaller apostolic choices within the assigned field of my ministry. For example, now every time I write a book, I spend at least several weeks discerning if it’s God’s will that I write that particular book. (Any writer will tell you that choosing one’s next book–which can take from a few months to several years to write–is not a small decision!) Is God calling me to respond to this particular need, to reach out to this particular group of people? How is he calling me to do that? What is it about this topic that God invites me to learn, deepen, and share with others? How will writing this book fulfill the mission that God has given me as a Daughter of Saint Paul? How will writing this book shape how I live my story, and my community?
After discernment became such an important part of my writing, it started to “leak” into my daily life—especially difficult choices. Long ago, I used to just trust common sense, the inspiration of the moment, and the intentions that I placed in my morning offering. But now, I try to bring a spirit of discernment to these daily choices. This allows me to be more mindful about seeking God’s will all the time, not just with big decisions.
But I still have a long way to go before I can claim to truly seek God’s will in everything. That’s my desire, but other things—like selfishness, a desire to please others, or fear of conflict—still get in the way. Making these daily little discernments helps to shape my larger life story, and makes me more receptive to God’s invitations—no matter how big or small, how obvious or subtle.
To Journal and Share
- What discernments have I already done?
- What kinds of things do I feel are important for me to discern?