In the Church, the discernment process is a period in which a candidate reflects on whether he or she has a calling to the priesthood. If, at the end of that period, there is a determination to pursue ordination, the bishop’s permission is sought to enter seminary.
However, even those of us not considering ordained ministry need to practice discernment about God’s plan for our lives, especially at transition points such as retirement. What does He intend for us that will demonstrate good stewardship of His gifts? This is not an easy process; it requires prayer, meditation, and reflection. We might want to think about activities that we once enjoyed but are no longer pursuing. We might seek input from family and friends. In the end, though, we alone must discern what God is calling us to do.
It’s not often that we receive a clear call to action. One such time in my life came when I was active in a parish in Southern California, where I often sat in a pew directly behind a single father and his 8-year-old daughter, Roberta. It was evident that he was doing his best by Roberta, but her sometimes tangled hair and disheveled appearance begged for TLC. One Sunday, as I came forward for Communion, I felt a tug at my sleeve from a pew. It was Roberta. Later that week, I spoke with our rector about the possibility of spending time with her, and he agreed to talk with her father. He was happy for my interest, and Roberta and I had some nice visits and outings over the next year or so. They then moved to an adjacent city, and then, out of the area. After the second move, I asked God to find another friend for Roberta in her new home. I had fulfilled my role in her life.
Sometimes, I believe, God will place a person, or place, or new experience in our path to help direct us. If we listen carefully, we might hear His voice. It’s too easy, though, to mistake our own desires for God’s voice. We must guard against rationalization and false prophets. Again, while counsel from family and friends can be useful, it does not substitute for God’s voice and our own self-knowledge.
So, while St. John’s reflects on the deployment of a new rector, it is helpful to remember that God not only calls new clergy, but also, He calls us to respond to his calls—large and small—in our lives. If we listen and remain open, we will hear them.
Betty M. van Iersel
Readings for today: Isaiah 55:6-11, Psalm 34:15-22, Matthew 6:7-15