One of the keys to support ourselves during times of discernment is through prayer. That ability to be silent before God as a listener is as vital as picturing ourselves in the presence of a wise person. Ask a simple question at the start of prayer, “Loving One, what do you want me to do with my life?” Then, wait in silence to hear the response.
Asking a question similar to this one probably won’t be a one-time experience of asking and then hearing the response, because this (and others like it) is a profound question! It may take many times for us to hear, really tune in to how the response comes. In prayer and quiet time, we are preparing to receive something precious from the One who loves us.
Receptivity and openness, not attachment to a specific outcome, allows us to hear well. We may be surprised by how our response comes. It could be through an insight received during prayer, a seemingly accidental conversation with another person, going for a walk, fixing a meal, doing dishes, or taking a shower. The response may just show up and our heart will know “this is it.” If we don’t know the full answer to our question, we will know the next step to take.
Discerning is a journey, a pilgrimage, during which we discover clues along the paths we walk. We can feel joy and be assured that all the paths lead to the same end, connection with our God.
May you have patience and persistence walking this path,
Christine Valters Paintner, in her book The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred, says, “Discernment is essentially a way of listening to our lives and the world around us and responding to the invitations that call us into deeper alignment with our soul’s deep desires and the desires God has for us.”*
With that description in mind, how do we enter that space of quiet where the “way of listening” she mentions is possible? Once we slow down and stop for awhile, our thoughts don’t necessarily stop with us. They keep going and we can count on multiple distractions invading that space! They might sound like: “I’ve got to get going.” “I can’t just sit here like this!” “I have things to do.” “This is a waste of time; nothing’s happening!”
Try sitting in a chair, feet on the floor, hands resting comfortably in your lap and begin breathing slowly, in and out. Count the breaths if that helps. Count them while focusing your attention on each breath until you begin to notice your breathing gradually slows more and more. This intentional quieting each day, even for ten minutes at a time, will begin to develop a pattern in our thoughts. We will start to notice something different is happening. Our thoughts will take their cue from our breathing and also slow down.
Thoughts will never be totally erased from our quiet time. But being intentional about taking time everyday to become familiar with this sacred space within will set the stage for our best and deepest listening to God’s voice within.
*Excerpted from The Soul’s Slow Ripening: 12 Celtic Practices for Seeking the Sacred by Christine Valters Paintner. Copyright 2018 by Ave Maria Press, P.O. Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556. Used with permission of the publisher.
One of the most challenging virtues for us to practice is patience. Another is trust. As we try to learn what God calls us to in our lives, we need a helpful dose of each.
Think of what it’s like to wait at a red light or stand in line at the store. If you’ve ever planted a vegetable garden and were eager to see what the carrots, beets, or potatoes looked like, you know what patience is needed. Recall how you feel when waiting for an important social or sporting event you’re going to attend. Whether you’re feeling patient or impatient, the waiting line moves as it does and you take your turn. The time for the events arrives. The vegetables come up fully formed or not. It’s our experience of waiting for that anticipated moment that stays with us.
Teilhard de Chardin, SJ, penned a poem entitled “Trust in the Slow Work of God.” As the title implies, be patient and trust that God is with us all the way through the process of listening for what our call is, what God would have us do with our lives.
Most of us do not have a brilliant, clear, and memorable announcement by an angel as Mary, the mother of Jesus, had. Most of us need to develop our heart-skill of patiently listening for God during our times of prayer or in conversations with a spiritual director or in the words of our friends who say aloud words that echo inside us and confirm where God is calling.
Let’s actively engage with God, embracing our patience and trust, listening to learn what we can.
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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!