It’s New Year’s Eve. I can’t even believe the year has flown by the way it has. A new year approaching always causes you to think a lot and in my case, write a lot. I’m sitting in my dark living room, nursing a horrible sinus headache and an annoying ear pain by the glow of my Christmas tree. It’s not the way I’d like to start ringing in the new year, but sometimes you just have to sit still in whatever moment has presented itself. So I’m using the time to think about the year that has passed. I’m thinking about where I’ve been and where I need to grow. A new year always holds so much promise and hope, but not without us committing to taking some kind of action.
Everyone is always so busy making resolutions and plans for the next year. It doesn’t leave a lot of room for reflection. But I can’t help but think about all the lessons learned this past year. It’s all been part of what got me here, to this moment. Some good, some not so good. None of it by accident. It’s all been in preparation for whatever is to come. Now that I’m older, I have so much more gratitude for the journey itself.
That gratitude has helped me to focus more on my every action, so that I do my best to live each moment in service of others. It’s really helped me to spend more time reflecting on the most important purpose we have in this world. That is to love others. So much more simple than we make it out to be. Although sometimes, loving people who are hard to love is just that…so very hard. But it’s still what defines us and what we were created for. Even so, loving doesn’t mean we have to accept every injustice or never say no. It definitely doesn’t mean we should let others take advantage of us. It means we forgive and accept what is.
Who doesn’t want more love and forgiveness in a new year? It’s how we navigate this human life, as every single one of us makes mistakes. Nouns like these are great to want more of in a new year. But for years now, I have been picking a word or words that define a characteristic I want or want more of. They’ve covered Peace to Courage, and everything in between. All of them have been nouns, but not one of them has taken action. They have been quite inspiring over the years. I’ve definitely gained many of those attributes and grown in many of those areas. But this year I realized what I need more of, requires me to take a specific action in every moment. What I need to do is Discern.
It occurs to me that my daughter, who has special needs, taught me a lot about this, although she doesn’t know it. She’s made me a bit of a detective. In most every interaction I have with her, I am trying to figure out if I’m dealing with something that is typical of a child her age or if it’s something that is a part of her autism. Discern means to distinguish someone or something with difficulty by sight or with other senses; to perceive or recognize something. Most of the time and after many years of experience, I’m spot on in my detection, but there are those times when I realize I’ve got it all wrong.
That is just one area in my life that I have to recognize differences daily. But what about every other moment? I’ve learned that while I am an ongoing investigator in the world of autism, I’m not choosing to discern in the way God asks me to in every moment and part of my life. When we discern, we are trying to discover God’s call for us. We are actively following the path he lays out for us. Though I try to listen, a lot of the time I feel I know better. My experiences have shown me otherwise. I’m reminded by Romans 12:2 that he always knows best. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
This last year I have not discerned as I should. Actually, I’ve rarely asked God what he wants me to do. Instead I’ve made my own calls and assumed that I should stay stuck in whatever situation or relationship I was struggling with. There were things and people no longer meant for me, but I knew better. Our society has so many outside pressures. It’s a me first world, that is hyper-focused on self-fulfillment. I could have asked what he wanted for me and tried to discern between right and wrong. But instead, I wasted valuable time deceiving myself that I’m in control and I know best.
Of course, 2018 was chock full of beautiful moments and happy experiences, along with a lot of difficult situations and sad times. There is never a year that isn’t and I’m so grateful for all of it. But to truly discern, there are lots of little actions I should be taking that would significantly diminish the struggle. Life isn’t without hard times, but the amount of time we take struggling is optional. So to struggle less and discern more, I hope to do these things more:
Be conscious of past experiences
Pray more and ask for guidance
Be open to God’s will and plan for me
Know and use my gifts and talents
Know my worth and where it lies
Listen to my heart and what I’m called to do
Every decision calls us to discern. Then, if we feel at peace with our choice and have confirmation in that choice, we know it was the right one. We each are called for something and discerning is what helps us discover what that call is. We all have a personal vocation, and not all of them are particular professions or calls to religious life. But if taking time to discern means more of a religious life, then sign me up! If you need guidance in your life and don’t want to do it alone, than discern may need to be your word too.
So to all of those things, people, and situations I’m leaving in this past year, I wish you well. While you weren’t part of my purpose, even though I was dead set on you being a part of it, you taught me a lot. For that I’m grateful because I’ve still grown tremendously. I know better now. When you know better, you can be and do better. Whether you’re taking on a word, a resolution, or an action in this new year, I hope you’ll consider that no matter what you believe, your’e not alone and cant do this life alone. If you choose to discern, I can tell you it will be life changing. I’ve seen how it changes things through my own experiences and through others’ experiences. That’s why I’m committing to do it regularly in the new year.
And whether you believe or not, I hope that the words below in Proverbs 3:1-6 will help to inspire you to think more about your every action in this life. Because our actions affect our life path and the path of the lives of those around us. So isn’t that worth a little time to discern and try to choose the path we’re called to? If my actions can help to heal the world and transform it for the better, I want to take that time to Discern and choose wisely, with guidance. After all, we’re here to love each other and why not live every action as if we truly do.
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”