Embracing Our Greater Yeses: When Choices Become Clearer

Last week, I walked us through the “pre-work” stage of discernment where I talk invite directees to engage in the passive discernment posture of noticing what you notice.  This week, we turn to the active stage of discernment.  St. Ignatius offers us a lot of wisdom on this stage, which many of the other Into the Deep writers will explore.  Today, I want to focus on how we know there is a shift from the passive to active discernment stage.  

Choices Appear and the Questions We Ask: 

At some point, our posture of noticing with God brings to our awareness options of how to respond to the deep desires of our heart.  It becomes clear the decision we are trying to make, and we can actively ask God for clarity of which choice is the right one for us. 

In the active phase of discernment, I will invite my directees to notice the shift in their questions.  The questions move from high-level pondering to concrete choices.  There may be multiple options in front of us, but we see active ways we could respond to what has been stirring in our heart.  

For example, someone who was once a teacher felt called to respond to the illiteracy in young children she encountered in her decades of teaching.  While no longer a full-time teacher, her desire to continue to help children learn to read lingered after retirement.   For months she prayed through the passive discernment phase.  Suddenly she and I noticed a shift in her questions.  Instead of high-level ponderings, her choices started taking shape.  She noticed options such as after-school tutoring at a specific school, joining a program of volunteers who went into schools to read to children, and another option at the library arose.  She began placing the actual options in front of God.  

Like this woman, our questions shift in active discernment to include questions such as: 

  • God, of all the choices and options before me, which of these is the better way to follow you? 
  • God, which choice leads to greater service of God and of others? 
  • Which choice most deepens my relationship with God and also bears fruit in others? 

Puzzle Pieces of Active Discernment: 

We will find ourselves naturally moving from the invitation to build some unknown puzzle to a more clear image of what the call is about.  For the woman I mentioned above, she went from the stance of creating an unknown puzzle with God to suddenly understanding what God was calling her to.  She had a sense of who to move toward- young children and illiteracy.  She had a sense of what she could offer them- her decades of teaching experience.  She had an opportunity to put all together into action for greater service of God and others. 

When we are invited to the active phase of discernment, we, too, have a sense of who we are being called to move towards.  We know what we can offer in response to what we see.  We also have opportunities to put our gifts and noticings into action.  

Once in an active discernment phase, we can lean into St. Ignatius’ discernment wisdom on discerning a greater good that we will explore further in the coming weeks about of all the choices which way invites us to imitate Christ in a way that brings us to deeper trust and relationship with God.  We can dive into the four steps of discernment and also lean on the three modes of discernment.  

This week, I invite you to consider if you are in a passive or active discernment phase now.  If not in a discernment season at the moment, I invite you to reflect on times in the past where you remember God inviting you from a passive discernment phase into an active one.  How did you notice God moving you from one to the other? 



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Photo by Jodie Cook on unsplash.com

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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