Have you heard of people who liken a child’s brain to a sponge? I think they say this presuming that what the child is absorbing is good. Because the child is equally able to learn things that are not good. Thankfully, the real sponge only takes in liquids while anything solid will remain mostly at its surface. Otherwise, we might have to change the sponge every other day!
Is it good then if we are like a sponge in the way we live out our Christian lives? Surely, our Catholic faith offers us everything good. While a sponge by its design only allows certain things to pass through its surface, for us humans, we do not have such an easy time. We need to do our own discernment to know in which circumstances is God inviting us to be a sponge and when he is not. If we take a close look at the Gospels, we can notice that Jesus would go to a quiet place on his own way before dawn to pray. He would know then which district to go next to spread the Good News. He does not do so on his own, stay longer when the people pressed him to remain with them, but goes where he is led. It was the same for the early followers, who came together to pray, discern and act.
Surely, discernment is not an easy thing. Because we don’t hear God’s voice as distinctly as we hear one another speak. Most of us are busy throughout the day and there is hardly stillness within even when our environment is quiet. But all of us are able to learn to discern, and with practice and a good spiritual guide to co-discern with us, we would be able to live as discerning Christians.
This is important because God is our only goal, and if so, everything else – our family lives, work, apostolate mission – is only the means to this end. If we do not discern, there is a high chance of going with the flow and at times, this flow may not be the way that leads us closer to God. It may be for another person but not how God calls us individually to go. If we are to accept every invitation to a church ministry, respond to every call to evangelize, attend every talk and retreat available, we will eventually find ourselves drained out, disillusioned and lost. Our attention scattered rather than it being focused on God. Thereafter, no time or too tired to pray. Instead of moving closer to God through these means of living out our discipleship, we will find ourselves further from him. Being a disciple is not a call to load onto our plates more than what we are called to do. In deciding on our apostolate work, we too need to discern. Who is God inviting me to reach out to? And to those he is, how is he asking me to be his instrument?
To discern, we need first to grow in awareness of our feelings. How am I feeling now? In the moment, as a result of something that has happened or something we have experienced. It is essential because God does speak to us through our emotions. For example, I find mopping the floor during my night shift very tiring, mundane and trivial. But when I become aware that I am doing it out of love for the children I work with, and who are so loved by Jesus, it fills me with a sense of purpose and connection with Jesus. He pours out his love into me as I share this love with the children through the simple act of mopping floor. By noticing these inner feelings, I continue to notice too that even in such simple deeds, God is inching me closer to him. And thus, I know this is what he is calling me to – the way he wills, at least for now, for me to walk in his direction.
As you go on your daily life, you may consider taking a minute or so periodically to look back at the time that had passed, what you experienced and your response, and how it made you feel. To notice increasingly with more practice, so that you can become more conscious of how God is working in and through you.