A Marathon Discernment
Last May, I wrote about the three important lessons I learned in training to run my first half-marathon. Since then, I have run one other half-marathon. My time and pace were noticeably faster. I attribute the positive change to those training lessons helping me gain strength, confidence and experience.
Presently, I am training to run my first full marathon in October. I am hoping that my time will qualify for the Boston Marathon. That seems to be a coveted item on every serious runner's bucket list!
My recent training has taught me a few other lessons that I find invaluable for someone in the midst of discernment.
Perseverance and faithfulness: I do not like sticking to a training program that calls me to run 7 miles after work. I do not enjoy waking up very early on a Saturday morning to run with a group consists of more experienced and intimidating runners. But surprisingly, I have found myself being committed to the training no matter how I feel at a particular moment. Consequently, that has improved my overall running especially the endurance for long-distance running.
It is easy to persevere and to be faithful when immediate results are easily seen. You may feel frustrated by the lack of noticeable results in your discernment. And that frustration may tempt you to put it off for some other time. Such moments call you to persevere and to be faithful to everything that has sustained and nourished your relationship with God.
I am reminded of the Scripture passage, "Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
Perseverance keeps you moving forward.
Learn from other people's own journey: As I prepare for my next marathon, I have been reading blogs about other people's experiences of running a marathon, not because I aspire to compete in the world stage, but because I want to avoid injuries and to be able to enjoy running for years to come. Reading has taught me that I am not the only one who experiences upset stomach while running! It has also shown me the value of learning how to pace myself, especially in long-distance running.
In your discernment, you can greatly benefit from reading about the experiences of people who have embarked on the same journey. A good place to start is the Bible with its many stories of people who both struggled to follow God's will and joyfully embraced it. You might also want to get a copy of known saints' spiritual autobiographies: "Story of A Soul" by St. Therese of Lisieux; "Confessions" by St. Augustine; "Introduction to the Devout Life" by St. Francis de Sales; and "The Long Loneliness" by Dorothy Day, just to name a few.
It is not surprising that St. Teresa of Avila's vocation started from reading St. Jerome. Her spirituality at the Carmelite convent attained new heights from reading St. Augustine. There really is great wisdom in reading about other people's account of their personal journey.
An integrated, wholesome discernment: Training has taught me that running my best is more than just putting on a pair of shoes and taking off. Working on getting other parts of my body stronger lessens pain and prevents injuries to the knees. I find practicing long runs with a group to work better for my endurance. Pacing saves my energy. Having a day to recover is integral to overall health.
Discerning authentically works the same way. It is much more than simply trying to figure out what God wants for your life. It involves setting aside time prayer that allows you to hear God's voice much more clearly. Finding a spiritual director to walk with you on your journey is important in helping address your own doubts and apprehensions. Getting involved in your parish or volunteering in any non-profit organization molds your heart to love as God loves. Staying away from destructive behaviors and habits shows your sincerity to follow God.
Discernment does not call for perfection, but it is much more authentic and assuring when everything in your life tries to work as a whole.
I hope these three training lessons help in your own discernment. Our vocations office is always available to answer your discernment questions. As a next step in your training, consider attending one of our upcoming Come & See mission trips. It will give us an opportunity not only to talk about these training lessons and other discernment topics, but also to introduce you to Glenmary priests and brothers who were once discerning like you!