Two years ago when I spent five months as a hospital chaplain in a Clinical Pastoral Education programme we were encouraged to experiment with our ministry. It was a safe place to try new things, whether it was how we prayed with patients, how we introduced ourselves or responded in certain situations, or how we interacted with the staff on our unit. Experimenting is a chance to learn more about ourselves and even what God wants for us.
Our decision-making life offers various opportunities to test various scenarios:
- Ignatius gives us two. First is imagination, that through prayer and meditation we can imagine how a decision will play out. Dreams often do this but with our imaginations we can actively do this while we’re conscious. The second method is to “try on” a decision and live as if you have indeed made that decision. In both cases, note your feelings and see what they might indicate.
- In dating, we have chances to meet and go out with various people before making any commitment to them. This is a good opportunity for discernment and awareness. Without the commitment you can freely date without pressure and use that time for reflection, assessing what your desires and feelings are, what your needs for a relationship are, where your heart is, and what each person has to offer, practically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- It may be harder to “test out” a job or living situation, but nothing has to be permanent. After some time you may realise that you are meant for a different vocation or you’re better off living in a different city. This may lead you to leaving your situation after a year to seek something else. These kinds of long-term situations can be the hardest to discern but at some point taking action one way or another is the best way to move forward.
- Spiritual growth can also be had by experimenting with different ways of prayer, daily routines, and even sacrifices. I fasted from Facebook for a month and found I didn’t really miss it. In fact, I had more time for prayer, letter-writing, and connecting with others. The experiment had a positive result and now I need to discern how to keep my Facebook usage low. Or perhaps I choose to reduce coffee as an experiment to see if my physical well-being improves. It might even be a chance to grow in my ability to restrain from caffeine. Any kind of sacrifice may strengthen your spirit and will power.
Experimenting is part of life, at every step. It is and should be part of the way we discern and along with it comes mistakes that lead us back to the road we’re meant to be on. Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” So what new thing do you need to try? Is it something about your routine? Your spiritual life? The way you interact with others? A change in your diet?
God is with you through it all and guiding you through every experiment you take so that you can learn and grow more into your best you.
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Music by Kevin MacLeod