Discernment, properly speaking, for each of those options [marriage or priesthood] always involves a gradual series of temporary commitments that are intrinsically ordered to the concrete living out of that vocation.”
The quote above came from an amazing article on discernment for Christian vocations written from a Catholic perspective.
As far as my career goes, I am working towards and shall be a therapist/mental health professional one day as well as a Dr. in Counselor Education and Supervison, so I can teach. That is the career path and those the career goals I have.
However, in due time, I’ll have to make a decision and discern wisely about my ecclesiological vocation. It’s going to be 1 of 2 vocations: marriage (remarriage in my case) or celibate priesthood/deaconate.
It weighs on me that I serve the Church in some form still. I have a long way to go before this route would ever be seriously considered. However, it remains one of the vocations I can choose.
Marriage, well, I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and the divorce. My marriage was horrible, toxic, and unhealthy. This immensely horrible experience makes me cautious to ever try it again. It would take an incredibly amazing lady and God telling me Himself to marry her for me to chose that path of salvation.
Marriage is also incredibly hard; relationships take so much time, care, love, and energy. I don’t think at this point I’d want to put time, energy, effort, and all of myself into marriage. I could use that to better serve people as a counselor and/or priest/deacon.
The author of the aforementioned article states that there’s two things about discerning our vocation as servants of God.
First, God loves us and wills for us to be happy. He says:
You don’t get to decide whether or not God loves you. He’s made that call already and his judgment upon you is love and mercy. Our pride tempts us to burden ourselves with the duty of earning God’s love by making the right decision about vocation.
This is an impossible burden for anyone to carry. RELAX. God loved you before, during, and after you made whatever decision you will have made, and He is powerful enough to realize your happiness in serving Him no matter what.”
I found comfort in that because I feel often, maybe subconsciously, that if I don’t make the right decision I may lose God’s favor, disappoint Him, He won’t grant me happiness, or that He’ll love me less. This is all rummage, noise, and mainly baggage from ex theological convictions. He is a good God and loves mankind. St. Aquinas had these amazing reflections on vocation to say:
I answer that, It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness.
For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man’s appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation.
Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Psalm 102:5: ‘Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.’ Therefore God alone constitutes man’s happiness.” (Summa Theologiae, Prima Secundae, Q.2, A.8, C.)
God’s will for our happiness is to find it in Him and Him alone. Regardless of my careers or vocation, I have to find my happiness and joy in the Lord first and foremost.
The second point concerning discernment the article mentions is that there will come a time to act on our vocational desires. As the opening quote says, we make small, temporary commitments over a period of time towards a vocation be it marriage or priesthood/monasticism. We don’t have to have a final set in stone answer, but make baby steps towards these things. The author says:
Why do we do this? Because all commitment, even temporary commitment, involves an element of risk. Our generation hates risk. We are terrified of making the ‘wrong’choice and losing everything. Pope Benedict told us, ‘If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great.’
But Love is a risk! Always! What do I risk by telling people that I am ‘discerning priesthood’ for example? Pretty much nothing. What do I risk by actually going to seminary? Time, money, my heart, the opinions of others. That’s a lot!
A good litmus test is this: does my discernment involve a risk to me personally in any way? Is there a chance that this might not work out and I would experience pain? If the answer is no, what we are doing is probably less like discernment and more like thinking and talking about doing something.”
These decisions aren’t gonna be made any time soon, but I sure can’t help but be in prayer over them and to ponder all this.
I first and foremost need to solidify and stablize my place in Orthodox daily life, practice, and faith. I need to repent, attend Liturgy, confess regular, learn more, humble myself, become more involved with my parish, be in the here and now, stop worrying about the future, let go of my need to control, sleep better, drink less, exercise more, work on my personal prayer and spiritual life. and as one of my heros, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, said, “R-E-L-A-X!” These are the small baby steps, the small commitments, over time I need to start now as discerning a vocation will eventually be on the horizon for me in my mid to late 30s I imagine.
The general will of God for your life is happiness and complete fulfillment in Him, does it make sense that He would ask you to do something that fails to accomplish this?
This doesn’t mean that when you’re doing the particular thing that God has willed for your life that it will be rainbows and butterflies and you’ll experience an emotional high the entire time. Quite the contrary, but God’s ability to make you happy can pierce through every form of suffering and pain that you will inevitably experience in this life.”