We’ve reached the last week of our series, “Called and Listening,” pulling from some of my writings on Ignatian discernment wisdom to help you hear God’s calls for your life and answer them. This week, we turn to looking at our whole “stove of life” and our next right step.
When I was growing up, my dad would often remind me when feeling overwhelmed, “Becky, how do you eat an elephant?” His response: “One bite at a time.” I am notorious for trying to solve everything at once, especially when it comes to discernment. I want the whole picture figured out, the vision made clear, and my beginning and ending fully known.
Discernment, though, happens in bites. Often all we can ask God is, What is my next right step?
Discernment is like making a good meal of red beans and rice. When I first start to cook the red beans and rice, my big stock pot is up front and center on the largest burner. I turn the heat up on high, add a little oil, and throw in bunches of onions, bell pepper, and celery. The vegetables need tending as they soften—I stir pretty regularly so they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the veggies are ready, the rest of the ingredients get dumped in: beans, sausage, chicken broth, and a bunch of seasoning.
With all the ingredients in place, I push the pot to the back of my stove with the lid on it and lower the heat. The beans simmer for hours before they are ready to eat.
Throughout the cooking process, I lift the lid from time to time to check on the water level and to stir the beans. While they are simmering, I prep and ready the rice to cook and prepare my cornbread to eat. Perhaps I am cooking a vegetable on the side. Each require different pots and places on the stove, and each require different elements of heat. I see every pot on the stove. I tend to the one that needs my attention the most, and then I push it to the back or lower the heat. I continue to do this until the meal is ready to serve.
The same is true for our discernment. In our life, we might have several things that God is inviting us to discern and pay attention to on our stove. God sees every pot that is cooking. When God wants our attention about one certain pot, God turns up the heat to get our attention. Maybe it boils over before we notice that we are being invited to tend to it. God moves the pot that needs our attention at the time to the front and center of our stove. We might be invited to notice it, check the heat, throw in a few more ingredients, stir it a bit, and push it back to simmer some more. At some point, though, we will be invited to take it off the stove—to either get rid of it completely or to savor and enjoy what’s been created.
God’s there through it all, watching over all the pieces of our life, like one of my kids watching me cook, sneaking a taste, calling out if it boils over or scorches on the bottom or needs a little more heat.
I think we sometimes worry that if we are not tending to a pot, it’s going to go away. That’s not the case, though. If God wants that pot on the stove of our life, it’s not going anywhere. That’s why I always boil discernment down to this: What is the next right step? Just like with the stove analogy, our next right step might be shoving the pot to the back and letting it simmer some more. Perhaps our next right step is gathering a bit more information and throwing it into the pot. Or maybe we are called to turn up the heat on our discernment by actively making a choice.
- Step back and look at what’s on your stove? What needs to be pushed back? Tended to? Removed altogether? Savored?
- The above is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of my book Busy Lives & Restless Souls. Want to read it with a group? Get the free Leader’s Guide.
- Read Hearing God’s Voice in the Busyness
Inviting you Deeper as We Walk with Christ:
- JOIN ME THIS WEEK! October 23: Women of the Well Fall Day of Reflection: “Is It You, God?” Cultivating Space to Hear God’s Voice in the Busyness, 9:30am-2:30pm at St. Gabriel Catholic Church, St. Gabriel, LA. Register here.
- Starting October 22: 6 week study of my book, Busy Lives and Restless Souls, with the Archdiocesean Spirituality Center, Archdicoese of New Orleans (Tuesday, Oct. 22, 29, Nov 5, 12, 19, 26) at 10:00 – 11:30 am or 7:00 – 8:30 pm, St. Peter’s Lacour Center, Reserve. More info here.
- Continuing October 24: Exploring Ignatius: Ignatian Spirituality for the Busy Person Course at Immaculate Conception in Denham Springs (October 24; November 7, 14) More info here. Register here.
- November 11: Holy Rosary Women’s Night, Making Room in the Busyness, St. Amant, LA. More info here.
- Sign up for my Prayer Team and pledge to pray for the weekly prayer requests posted on my Facebook & Instagram, and for the attendees of upcoming events. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.