Last night, my foster son and I baked a cake. He read each step in the recipe, one by one, as we went along. From pre-heating the oven, to spraying the pan, and then adding ingredients, the steps were easy and we expected a fluffy, delicious cake as long as we followed the recipe. When it comes to discernment, I would love to have a recipe with clearly outlined steps. At the end, we could expect a perfect decision, as long as we followed the outline well. However, while there’s not a single discernment “recipe” that works for everyone, there are a few commonalities.
Hopefully, everyone knows that prayer is a must when it comes to discernment. If there were a written recipe, prayer would be step one, but it would also be included in each succeeding step. The middle steps would include some spiritual direction, a few servings of sacramental participation, plenty of conversation with others, and a variety of other spiritual exercises based on the taste of the individual. One of the most forgotten steps, however, is the last one and it’s likely the most important! It’s like making a cake, but forgetting to bake it!
The last step is taking action. Continuing with our recipe metaphor, we can mix the ingredients perfectly, measure well, and have the right temperature, but if we never actually put the cake in the oven, nothing happens. The same is true for our discernment. We can pray well, have fruitful conversations, and even feel confident in God’s calling for us, but if we never take action, nothing happens.
I think fear often gets in the way. We feel as if there’s no going back once we put the cake in the oven or take an action with discernment. There’s an element of risk involved. What if it doesn’t turn out the way we expected?
Well, our cake turned out well last night, but our homemade icing was a bit of a disaster despite following the directions perfectly, or so I thought. Thankfully, I found some leftover icing in the fridge and we were able to mix it with our concoction. We ended up having a vanilla cake with mango icing and strawberry topping. Although I was attempting a vanilla icing, the mango was a delightful surprise.
What is my point? The cake did not turn out how I expected; it was better. This is how God works with our discernment. If we make mistakes or even choose the wrong thing, God can use our actions to make something beautiful with our lives! Sometimes, we may have to start over and try the recipe again. Sometimes, God may be telling us to use a different recipe.
So, what action do you need to take? Maybe you need to contact a vocation director or do a google search on different religious communities. Perhaps you should apply for that graduate school or talk to someone about switching your major. Whatever the result, you are one step closer to a holy decision!
– Blog entry by Jenna Legg