One of our biggest obstacles in discerning God’s will in our life is ourselves. Because of original sin—the sin of Adam and Eve which has marked every human being—we are prone to sin. In our discernments, we want to “sort through” our desires, distinguishing between disordered desires which can lead to sin and genuine desires that well up from deep within and reflect our true identity.
Sometimes when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we’ll discover that our main difficulty is really ourselves. We might think that if we just didn’t have to deal with this situation, or this person, or this challenge, we’d be fine. And then we end up in a new situation and we find that it’s not the situation that was the problem, it’s ourselves and how we deal with the situation.
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I remember one time as a younger sister when I found myself in what I thought was a really difficult situation. Another sister and I really clashed, and it made community life really challenging for me. At the end of the year, I was transferred to a new community. At first I was thrilled, thinking everything was great. Then I started running into the exact same difficulties that I had run into before!
Gradually, I realized that although the circumstances of life would never be perfect, what made them unmanageable was me. My particular faults—in this case my high expectations, my desires for perfection, and my impatience with others—were really at the root of my problem in getting along with the other sisters. It was a hard lesson to learn, but a wonderful opportunity to get to know myself better. I realized that sometimes—perhaps more often than I’d like to admit—I am my own worst enemy!
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In discernment, we spend a lot of time seeking greater freedom. (This is why sometimes we need to take a longer time to discern.) In our discernments, we seek freedom:
- from our ego
- from our tendency to seek ourselves or to put ourselves ahead of God
- from our disordered desires
- from the world’s materialistic and secular perspective
- from others’ expectations
When Saint John the Baptist was pointing to Christ as the Messiah, he made a wonderful statement that fits this aspect of discernment: “He [Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). Discernment is about giving Christ and his will for us more and more space in our life, so that our true identity as disciples of Christ can clearly emerge.
Like me, have you had “frozen squirrel” moments…where you’ve not been sure where God is calling you to go next?
Do any of the following feel true…at least some of the time?
- You feel that you are placed here on earth for a reason, that you were intended to do something special, to fulfill your unique role in God’s story for the world…but you feel you haven’t found what that is yet.
- You’re discerning your vocation–or you want to discern your vocation–and you don’t know where to start.
- You want to do God’s will, but you’re not sure what that is. Or you worry that you aren’t “up to it” and so you put off trying.
- You are searching for meaning, for a deeper purpose in life. But you feel disorganized, overwhelmed, uncertain how to juggle priorities, so that you end up doing things which may be important to others…but don’t feel as important to you.
- You always wanted to be someone who “made a difference,” to be part of something greater than yourself, something that could really change lives, and you’re frustrated because you don’t feel that what you do matters.
- You worry that you are meandering through life, not fulfilling what you are meant to do here on earth, not living your own story fully.
- Looking back on your life, you worry that you’ve made the wrong choices, and now you’ve reached a turning point in your life, but you don’t know what to do…or if your choice will even matter any more.
If any of these thoughts or feelings resonate with you, this blog (which I hope eventually to turn into a book) might be able to help you to sort through your life using the spiritual art of discernment.
* Which (if any) of the above statements ring true for you? If you can, write about the one that best describes your inner state.
* If you viewed your life as a story, how would you describe where you are right now? What’s lacking in your story?
* What are you hoping to “get” from reading this blog or book?
Share your insights and thoughts here or in the comments box below!
Welcome to Co-Author Your Life with God! Here, you will be able to find resources to help you grow in the spiritual art of discernment, have your questions answered, and even learn about discernment from some mainstream movies!
Co-Author Your Life with God is set to launch for the Year of Consecrated Life (from the First Sunday of Advent, the weekend of November 29th, ending on February 2, 2016, the World Day of Consecrated Life). In a special way, we want to support those who are discerning their vocations to religious life. But the blog is intended for anyone interested in growing in the spiritual art of discernment–in other words, letting the Holy Spirit take the lead in our lives!