Ignatian Spirituality is known for finding God in all things and being very practical. There is such a beauty in recognizing God in the ordinary, everyday moments: a cool breeze, birds chirping, and a giant hug from my children when I pick them up from school just to name a few. We can also find God when we are discerning a major change. These big (or even not as big) decisions become discernment when we include God in the process. Today, we will walk through the four steps of discernment. I’ve used this process both formally and less intentionally many times in my life. Here, I would like to share how our family used these steps to help us discern the decision between me being a working mom or stay at home mom when I was expecting our second child.
We found out I was pregnant with our first son when our daughter was about 16 months old. We had moved back home to Louisiana only a few months before. As I started a new job teaching, there was a season of transition as our daughter and I adjusted to her no longer coming to work with me to attending daycare.
The transition to sending my daughter to daycare was not easy for me. I struggled for months not being there in the morning when she woke up and never being able to drop her off at daycare since my morning started earlier than my husband’s. We all eventually adjusted and settled into our new routine, our new normal. As the school year and my pregnancy continued, we started our search for a daycare spot for our baby-to-be. As we were looking at different places, we realized having two children only 23 months apart in daycare was going to be quite the expense! Once we realized almost the entirety of my paycheck would go to paying for daycare, we had a decision to make- would I go back to work, or would I stay home with our children?
I became overwhelmed with the decision I had to make. My husband was supportive either way, it was really my choice to make. I quickly realized I needed to bring my overwhelming decision to God in prayer. I told God about all my mixed emotions. I asked my parents and my in-laws what they thought I should do, and told them my concerns for both choices.
After this, I was still not ready to decide, so I gathered my data. The thought of leaving my tiny baby in daycare made me feel guilty. I quickly realized this guilt could be fear of the unknown, so I continued to ponder my decision with my husband and with God in prayer. With no clear answer in mind, I took out a notebook and leaned on one of Ignatius’ tools, make a pro/con list. I listed all the pros of staying home and the pros of returning to work. I also listed the cons for each. Neither of my lists were very long, but simply writing down the different reasons I wanted to return to work and the reasons I wanted to stay home helped me come to a decision free of any guilt. After writing my list and bringing this list to prayer (and to my husband and my Dad), I was ready to come to a decision.
While I knew the gap on my resume may not be ideal for future employment, after much discernment, I made the decision to stay home with our children.I felt consolation in this decision because I felt a new sense of confidence after this discernment process, which helped me to remember I made this decision after several prayerful conversations with God. I knew I was fortunate to have the choice to stay home with them, and I felt reassurance that work would be there for me when I was ready to return. I lived into this decision by continuing to work until our sweet baby was born that April. Once our discernment was complete, I felt such freedom knowing my husband and I had not made this decision alone, we made it with God.
Over the next several years, the urge to return to work would come and go, and I would bring it back to God in prayer. More than once I was able to hear the whisper from God, “not yet” and trusted I was where God wanted me to be. When it was time for me to return to work, God made it clear to me in prayer, and my job basically fell into my lap! I realized these decisions, these discernment moments became much easier and less overwhelming when I remembered I was not doing this alone, God was with me every step of the way.
Over the next several weeks, our Into the Deep writers will go even deeper into the different parts of the four steps of discernment. If there is a choice you are trying to discern yourself, check out our Four Steps of Discernment handout. And don’t forget to bring what you are discerning to God!
- Check out our discernment resources here.
- The next time you are discerning something, consider using our Four Steps of Discernment handout.
- Read about the Four Strategies for Discernment from Vinita Hampton Wright.
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