The season of autumn in the north is traditionally a time marked by letting go. Leaves fall off trees, warmer temperatures depart in favor of cooler ones, and light diminishes as we move steadily toward December’s shortest day of the year. Change affects our human lives as well.
Some people get into the mood of clearing out cluttered closets, drawers, and storage areas at home. Wardrobes change from lighter clothing to warm sweaters, jackets, and long sleeves. In addition to these outward signs of change, there are internal signs of letting go too.
Discerning well is like the season of autumn because it involves letting go and leaving behind some choices. If you’ve made a list of life options available to you, you’ll find yourself crossing some of them off your list. If you’ve taken your top three choices where you feel called in your life and listed pros and cons for each of them, it may be easy to see which one(s) need to be let go next. This, of course, takes time. Then, there’s one more thing.
Unlike the season of autumn when trees let go of their leaves to make room for the new growth, it’s hard to imagine the trees feeling sad about their losses. For us humans, sometimes letting go of what we had thought we might be called to do and taking up another choice, risky or not, may leave us feeling sad. Like the tiny new buds that appear on trees even before the leaves fall, it helps to feel assured that we have discerned well. Now it’s time to try on our choice.
May you live in such confidence and trust,
If you are exploring religious life, you have probably come across the term discernment. Discernment is really deciding between two or more goods. If you are making a choice between one thing that is clearly good and one thing that is clearly wrong, choose the good. No discernment required.
But life often presents us with many options that are good. There are the big life decisions: Do I choose marriage, religious life, or a committed single life? There are the ministry discernments – what job should I do that best uses the talents God gave me and best serves the world?
But even when we have these aspects of our life figured out, discernment comes up daily. Of the many things I have to do, which is a priority? Should I bring up a difficult issue with someone or let it go? Should I get out of bed and exercise or sleep thirty more minutes? Of course, the more serious and major the discernment the more time we put into it. But becoming a discerning person will help you every day of your life. You will learn to assess with God what is the most life-giving path for you, in the big and small pieces of your life.
If you are making a big decision, a great book is The Way of Discernment by Elizabeth Liebert. It gives you a whole variety of prayer exercises to use to help you come to clarity.
Remember God promise to Jeremiah is God’s promise to you: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!