By Judith Costello
The popular media shapes career fads in the impressionable minds of the young. In the 1960s there were the detective shows. In the 1970s women and men were portrayed as lawyers. In the ‘80s and ‘90s came the doctor and police shows. And now the fad is “Crime Scene Investigation.” Based on these limited, but trendy careers, young people grow up with cookie-cutter ambitions! They see the future in terms of college, a CSI or medical career and a good income!
But that is not how we were designed to look at the future. In fact, the psalmist says, “We are fearfully and wonderfully made.” We are unique. We are oriented to God. Each of us will be most happy and joyful when we are following God’s will for us, even when it is the opposite of what we have planned.
So how can we know God’s will? As far as I can tell, there are five basic ingredients to discernment. The number in this recipe may be few, but dedication is required!
1) Solitude. We can’t know the truth that comes from the Holy Spirit unless we spend some time in prayer and then in silence every day, preferably twice a day! Pray and then listen for at least 20 minutes each time.
2) Trust. In times of doubt, it is really good to repeat the words, “Jesus, I trust in you,” several times a day. These words, given to St. Faustina, are comforting. Jesus, the one who died for us, will carry our troubles.
3) Pay attention. Sometimes God uses other people to speak to us. As one young man was leaving church, an elderly woman took her hand off her walker to wave at him. She said, “That one will be a priest.” (The older lady’s daughter apologized, “I wasn’t expecting her to say that. I’m sorry.” Isn’t it sad, that there was an apology when the voice of the Holy Spirit may very well have been speaking through the elderly woman?!) The Holy Spirit doesn’t need to shine mysterious lights or send apparitions during the night (although the Holy Spirit can.) Sometimes he speaks through an elderly woman with a walker, or the small child holding out a toy, or the teacher who says something unexpected. When we hear the same thing from several sources, it is most likely a “God thing.”
4) Letting go. Most of the time we find that our minds are so filled with expectations and desires, there is no room for anything new. That’s when I know it’s time to practice emptying. “Letting go” means pouring out the prideful desires so that God fills it with himself.
5) Say “yes,” Lord. A lot of people in the Bible said “yes” to God eventually, but first they whined and complained. A few of them, like Sarah, laughed at the whole idea of pregnancy in old age. Elisha gave a great “yes” when the prophet Elijah stopped by while he was plowing his fields. When he got a call to become a prophet instead of a farmer he said, “I have some things I need to do first” (which caused a bit of irritation in Elijah!). But Elisha actually took time to cut ties with his past. He killed the oxen and cooked them on a fire made from his plow! He gave up everything!
The call from God isn’t easy. Moses was called to be a leader, but he wasn’t a very good speaker. When David was called to follow God, he was quite young. When Gideon was called he said, “I’m a nobody. If this is a real calling, please prove it!”
But there is one person who said “yes” to God in total surrender. Mary. She planned to be a servant at the temple but her parents promised her as a wife to Joseph. And then the angel came to say she would bear a son while remaining a virgin and he would be the Savior. Mary didn’t just say, “OK.” She made a “fiat,” which is a formal declaration of obedience!
Discernment is possible, even when everyone else is considering only “trendy choices.” Our call is to follow Mary in saying, “Yes, Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”
(Judith Costello, OCDS, is a freelance writer who grew up in Davenport and lives in rural New Mexico. Her website is www.thedailychristian.com.)