“How do I discern a vocation?”
Discerning a vocation can be like the old adage: A watched pot never boils. I know that to be true. During my discernment when I was trying to figure out how God was calling me, I felt as if I would never get to the point of knowing for sure that God was calling me, let alone exactly to what that call was. I had some helps along the way—a spiritual director, supportive friends, and an inquisitive mind that always kept me asking questions of myself and of God. Though I felt as if I were getting nowhere, I realized later that the more I consciously tended to God and sorted through my life with all its hopes and dreams and struggles, the more I was growing into my calling. All of a sudden, so it seemed, the pot was boiling. I wasn’t exactly sure how I got there, but I felt ready to take a step towards what God was calling me.
The process was both an active one and one of simply living life. In terms of an active process I was conscious that I wanted my life to be more oriented around God. And I realized I didn’t have to wait for God to send me a big sign in the sky to act on that. The first step for me was to be more faithful to prayer. That meant praying each day and also learning about different ways to pray. I was attracted to praying with the psalms and also to silent prayer, so I tried them. I also began seeing a spiritual director, someone who could walk with me on my spiritual journey and help me to see the ways God was moving in my life. I began reading more of the saints (Saint Teresa of Avila in particular) and also, when I was finally willing to admit I might be attracted to religious life, to get to know sisters around me. I went on retreat and I tried to make concrete in my daily life the gospel that I was committed to following.
In the midst of taking these kinds of concrete steps I also kept living my life. While the discernment part of things was a real struggle for me, I was free in my “normal” life to just be. I was a grad student, so I was studying, hanging out with friends, working, and enjoying life. Over time I began to feel shifts within my own self, shifts toward feeling more like myself, feeling more alive than ever. My friends started noticing that, too. By being intentional about my discernment and also integrating it with my everyday life, I found that I had already been living into the calling that God was nudging me toward.
If you are wondering if God is nudging you in a particular direction, I encourage you to explore your life and faith and to pick up a few discernment tools. There are lots of articles dealing with discernment and prayer on this website. Look into spiritual direction and find a saint or spiritual book that speaks to you. Take action to practice and grow the values you wish to reflect in your life. And along the way trust in the God who has known you your whole life and is with you every step of your journey.
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