I was speaking to a friend who spent just two weeks in religious life but discerned to leave. It took the action of entering to help him discern that it wasn’t God’s will for his life. For me it took two and a half years to make that same decision. Neither of us regretted that time spent in religious life. It was worth the investment. It changed us. But what didn’t change was who we were at our deepest core: the person God made us to be.
I love the verse from the First Book of Samuel:

“The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will be changed into a different person.”
(1 Samuel 10:6)

The kinds of things learned in important periods of our life are things that form us more into the person we were made to be. It may seem like we change into a different person, but really we become more ourselves. We change states in a sense. I like the analogy of the states of materials. The metal and plastic in your car are in solid states, but they can be melted. Technically they’re frozen, which makes them a solid. If the temperature rises high enough the metal and plastic will become a liquid and can be formed into something else, like a tool or a bowl. Ice is frozen water. When the temperature is high enough it becomes a liquid and though it’s still water it has a different function. If another “changing” event occurs the water can become a gas and have yet another function like running the pistons in an engine. Cool it down again and the water can be formed into solid ice cubes to cool your drink or into a beautiful ice sculpture.

We’re not so different. We remain the same person, but our state changes from time to time based on various events in our lives. Right now I could be a business manager but something causes me to pursue cosmetology school. I could be one considering marriage but some spiritual event may cause me to pursue a celibate life. My state changes, but I don’t. Like the potter in Isaiah’s book, I am being formed like clay. Whether a cup or a vase I still am clay, I just have a different function.

The problem in our culture is that we often fail to discern our state of life. We enter marriage or a career or move across country without any real prayer or thought. Saint Ignatius sought to create a more prayerful way of making major decisions, one that allowed God to contribute a voice in the process.

>> For some practical advice on putting the Ignatian decision-making method to use, I recommend the book What’s Your Decision? by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ. It offers practical real-life examples and how to approach decision-making in the Ignatian way.

Or see this Ignatian framework for making decisions from Loyola Press.

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Music by Kevin MacLeod