Simple Guide for Discernment by Melanie Yeoh (It’s more confusing than Neuroanatomy!)
Originally posted on Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Disclaimer: All my own opinions. Read at your own risk!
Discernment is like the start of “A Tale of Two Cities” -> ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.’ It’s the BEST cos the world seems so lovely.. God loved us first, so our hearts have the capacity to love others. But it’s the WORST cos you’re suddenly confronted with a whole new world of change, of seeing how far you will go for Your Beloved. Wisdom given by God shows me the Way, but the foolishness and pride from myself keeps me from the Way.
I don’t think i will ever stop discerning God’s Will in my life. Everyday, every single minute is filled with choices. Some are easier than others (99 year old, bed-bound 10 years, Alzheimer’s with pneumonia. Intubate? Erm, NO) and some are slightly more complicated (What should i have for dinner? Ramly oblong chicken burger or nasi goreng kerabu seafood?! I like both! How?!) The day i stop discerning, is the day my pride and arrogance has won…
But i digress. The discernment I’m referring to is discernment for state of life. Many many many learned scholars have written many many many books on Discernment. Unfortunately, i haven’t read many books on this. I figured, the only one who can discern God’s Will for my state of life is myself, with God’s grace of course. I’ve noticed that He’ll drop hints and tips on and off on which direction He wants me to go.
So here’s what I’ve garnered, in a nutshell:
1. There is NO such thing as coincidence, no matter how much people around you will try and convince you that it exists.
If you are discerning, then you know that everything happens for a reason and for God’s purpose (hikmah, as my friends would say). But if that is the premise, then there is no room for the existence of this animal called ‘coincidence’… We might perceive it as coincidence, but in God’s eyes, He’s got something more up His sleeve!
2. Pride is a deadly sin.
Which i am guilty of fairly often… Being young and feisty, thoughts of morbidity and mortality lie far way from my mind. I assume that my family, friends, colleagues, patients need me, and how could they possibly do without me?! It’s fine if I’m alive and well. But who’s to say i don’t walk out the door and get hit by some crazed mat rempit? If i die, that’s a good thing. If i don’t die and am left paralysed from the nose down, then who will be caring for WHOM now…? So note to self: I am not God. Presumably if my GPS (God Positioning System) tells me to turn right/left cos there’s an obstacle or ravine ahead, then i can either follow instructions or choose to ignore my GPS on AOR (at own risk) basis.
*This GPS is more reliable than my Garmin, which likes to take me on the longest and most expensive route possible to get to my destination…*
3. Take it one step at a time
As Sr Anne fsp (a very wise person) would say “God gives us JUST enough grace for the day”. Basically, God will give you X amount of grace/day. Therefore, by the time you reach Obstacle A, you’d have enough accumulated grace to overcome said obstacle. You can speculate what might be ahead, but don’t be overly stressed about it. It’s like the lamp analogy – Life is like walking on a dark path with a lamp (and that ‘GPS’ in your heart) to guide your steps. With the lamp, you can see just one or two steps ahead, but that’s about it. The oil that keeps your lamp burning is prayer, all the good deeds you do, all the virtues you accumulate, and most importantly, God’s grace.
4. Be careful about picking the logical choice
Let’s face it.. This whole vocation thing is just NOT logical. I mean, if you look with the eyes of human logic, none of this makes sense! God falling in love with me? Leaving everything behind to follow a Divine Spouse that no one can physically see? But if you feel with your heart, everything makes perfect sense…
So practical applications! Just need to answer two questions:
A) How much do i love God (and, this being a relationship, how much does He love me..) and am i willing to give up all that i’m comfortable with right now, for Him?
– This one, only you and God can answer it. Generally, your heart knows what it wants, but your brain just has to catch up.
B) Which congregation/order?
– I credit this answer to my dear friend, Dr Anita Gonzalez.. She says “Choose the one you feel most at home with.” I interpreted this as – Let’s say you decide on Order X. If you happen to meet a Sr Grumpy (or, more likely, a whole bunch of Sr Grumpys) would you still stay with Order X? Cos entering an order is essentially like marrying a 100 husbands (this quote, i credit to my mother, Dr Gertrude).
If you can tolerate all their funny habits (no pun intended), and still love them for whom they are despite being Sr Bad Mood and Sr Perpetua(lly) PMS, then this is your home… Don’t choose based on logic, i.e. I’m a doctor, i should apply for FMM/FMDM/LSP/medically-related orders. Follow what your heart tells you (does NOT apply if you’re marrying a normal guy btw. That one, follow your head.) and choose that one, no matter how illogical it may seem to you!
5. Do a Gedankenexperiment (Google it…)
– This one is credited to Sr Shirley Chong, fsp. Well, she didn’t say this exactly, but i expanded on what she did. She used to lie down on her bed and see if she could imagine herself as a nun.
– What i did was lie down and imagine:
Scenario 1 – What my plan is for my life, i.e. transfer to a Klinik Kesihatan, then resign, then be a GP + charitable works + travel and see the world from time to time. Perfect! But…. had this tiny niggling feeling of uneasiness. Couldn’t quite figure out why. It looks like a great plan, don’t you think? Future certain, all systems GO!
Secnario 2 – With great reluctance and much scepticism, i acknowledge that PERHAPS, just MAYBE, remotely possible that my path is to enter the religious life. Pathway ahead is seriously unknown. Chances of practising as a doctor is not in my hands. How does THAT feel? Again with much reluctance, i have to admit that i felt peace and a deep joy within my heart, although my brain said “Heart, are you crazy?!”
– So try it out! It just might work for you… It worked for Einstein!
His greatest trick is to make you think he doesn’t exist. Remember that other forces are at work here. Whenever something happens (good, bad, or neutral), just kind of step back and evaluate the situation. Look with your heart, then look with your brain. Both can contribute! Heart is attune to God. Brain is better at recognising the devil.
1.The crux of it all is that if your will is in line with the Holy Spirit within you, then you will feel at ease and at peace. The easiest way is to keep praying – “God, if this is not what You want for me, then please oh please take this desire away from me, cos it’s really stressing me out!” Things will happen.
2. I have heard that this lovey dovey feeling doesn’t last forever. One day, there will be a Dark Night of the Soul (dig out your St John of the Cross from the shelves). Hopefully, i’ll be ready for it and will mature, not regress.. So walk by faith, not by feeling. My heart will bring me closer to God, but my brain will sustain my vocation too.
3. If you’ve thought and pondered and discerned that this is the life for you, then STOP stressing on whether you’ve made the right decision! Done is done… Stop waffling!
Suggested Reading (if you only have time for one book)
-Story of a Soul by St Therese of Lisieux
Just my opinion, but i suspect your reaction to her writing will pretty much be a hint on which direction God is tugging your heart towards!
Please guide me and all the other confused folks. I only want to do Your Will, for i know when You are happy, i will be at peace too. Help me to persevere through this path You have chosen for me, and may i one day be the person You want me to be. I know if my vocation is love (as St Therese said so eloquently), then everything else will fall into place, for me and all those around me.
This entry is taken with permission. Thank you Melanie!