The matter of discernment puzzles me.
I was 20 before I even heard the word discernment, and then I heard quite regularly at that. It didn’t take long before “discernment” sound like the magic word for some secret society. It annoyed me to no end for a long time.
I’m not much closer to discovering what discernment really means ten years later. Although I have been told on numerous occasions that it’s not a “get out of jail free card,” so I should really stop treating it like one.
Yeah, I’ll get right on that.
It’s one of those necessary evils of life, especially if you’re Catholic, if you ask me.
There seems to be an implication that one cannot possibly find their vocation without some sort of discernment.
While this is more or less true I don’t think it can be expressed in such a cut and dry fashion if people are really going to understand discernment.
I understand that there’s no definite “right” or “wrong” way to discern.
However I’m not sure I’ve ever done it “right,” or at least the best way for me.
I have, however, done what everyone else has done.
I’ve gotten up for the sunrise masses and before class rosaries (mostly).
Gone to prayer groups and Bible studies.
Rarely ever, and I mean ever, missed fellowship or adoration.
Made every retreat possible, even a yearlong SEEL retreat that included spiritual direction.
I even joined a discernment group (albeit for other reasons, at least initially).
And they’ve had great success, although a different definition of success than the secular.
I have the dubious distinction of being a religious sister’s prayer partner for a few months during our junior year (during her final pre-nun years). Just to give you an example. I like to tell people that I helped facilitate her discernment process, because that’s how things happened in my head.
It took me a while to really get that discernment has no timetable. Although it eats on my nerves when people say they’re discerning something and you know for a fact that they’ve been doing it for years. Talk about using discernment as a “get out of jail free” card.
Let’s not even talk about the people who are so certain of their plan because they’ve discerned it within an inch of their lives and then after a day (or what feels like a day) they do a complete change of direction.
Because the mysteries of discernment go both ways, and every which way.
Discernment’s never been my thing, at least not in the same way swimming or encountering unpleasant people seem to be my things.
It would be awesome if God would just speak very loudly and very clearly after a period of prayer and self-reflection.
Unfortunately, discernment doesn’t work like that either, at least not for most people.
Discernment is important. It’s also becoming a lost art in some aspects. Just don’t ask me for advice on it, because I have no idea what I’m doing.
*A similar version of this post was written on August 6, 2014