Dear Recent College Graduate (and others seeking your way in life),
First, the disclaimer. I am not a spiritual director. I am not trained in the theology or methodology of discernment any more than any other semi-interested lay person. I speak only from experience and reflection on that experience.
Also, the hope is always that prayer is constant and earnest though it all. We’re not perfect, but the more open we are with God (by means of giving him our time) the better chance we have of finding his will, whether we realize we have or not.
That said, I remember being in my last two years of college. I remember the questioning: where is God calling me? And more importantly(?), how can I know?
Shoot, I remember asking these questions in college, and after college, and when we had the opportunities to move our family or change jobs…we’re more or less there right now, as we consider finding a permanent place for our family to live.
So maybe that’s the bad news: discernment doesn’t go away when you decide on your career or who you will marry or which order to join. If anything, the stakes just get higher.
So what is different about my discernment now and (gasp) 13 years ago? How can I talk so glibly about such weighty matters?
Maybe it’s the good news: God is faithful. With the benefit of hindsight, his faithfulness shows up all over our lives. It’s just that often we had to be on the other side of the discernment to see it.
I think we (by which I mean Craig and I) always knew not to expect a booming voice from Heaven when we asked God to reveal his plans for our lives. I expect most people are with us there. That would have been nice, of course, but we weren’t quite that hopeful.
Still, I think we expected our options to be narrowed down. Or some friend to come up with the perfect, unassailably flawless solution. Or a scripture quote to appear in a retreat note which was exactly the same passage we were praying over when the email about this grad school came in.
Basically, we wanted a sign.
And even now, a sign would be lovely. I would love to be able to say, “Thanks, God! Now that I know exactly what Your Holy Will is, I’ll do my best to follow your blueprint.”
Life just doesn’t seem to work like that. Not for us, at least. We have found that the best way to find God’s will is to jump in and see what happens. Peace? Then we made a good guess based on the understanding we had. Not peace? Maybe we need pray (a lot) more and try again.
I have found, for myself, that it is usually my gut that listens to God the best. (This is rather Hebrew of me – the seat of the person being not in the heart but the innards.) Anyway, it’s almost always a gut check that points me in the right direction.
Watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina from 2,000 miles away was my first indication that I wasn’t meant to spend my life in the hallowed halls of academia – I needed the real world too badly.
I knew for a while that I would rather be home with my kids than teaching Latin, but it took a drive across the Huey P. Long Bridge, my first day back to work after having Samantha, with her two-year-old sister in the back seat, with SNOW fluttering around the car – what on earth was I doing? I was going to drop my kids at day care when it was snowing in New Orleans so I could teach Latin. To mostly uninterested high school girls. Gut check.
You get the idea. Sometimes the scholarship comes through (or doesn’t) and the decision is made. Sometimes the path is clear…but sometimes you just throw caution to the wind, close your eyes, and jump.
God will catch you.
And where ever he puts you down, he will cause you to grow. There may be a transplanting in your future, but by then you’ll have grown strong enough to survive it, and to blossom.