SummaryIn the last post of her Discernment Series, Abby Sasscer shares the tools she uses to teach her children how to discern God’s will in their lives.
Part 4 – Stories of Discernment Series
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2
Last summer, our daughter expressed a desire to be enrolled in ballet classes.
Since she had finished her school year two months earlier than expected, we decided to enroll her in a free class at a local dance studio. We told her that we could only do lessons in the summer and she happily agreed.
After summer was over, it was clear that she was enjoying herself and was advancing rather quickly in class. Her teacher approached us and asked if we were open to enrolling her for the upcoming school year.
We respectfully declined and told her that we enroll our children in these types of classes only during the summer.
But my daughter really wanted to be part of the end-of-the-year production, so her teacher begged us to reconsider. She even invited us to watch in on some of the classes to see our daughter’s progress.
When my husband and I watched her, it was clear that she was very focused, serious and had the maturity to learn the rigors of classical ballet. After class, her teacher came up to us with a smile on her face and offered us a scholarship so my daughter could continue lessons
While my first impulse was to say “yes” right away, I told her instructor that we would need to pray and think about it first.
The reason behind this delay was because I felt that this was a wonderful opportunity for my daughter to learn about the beautiful process we call “discernment.”
What is Discernment?
When my daughter asked what “discernment” was, my answer was simple:
“Discernment is the process of praying, listening and making a decision here on earth but making sure that we give Heaven the final say on the matter.”
I explained that as she grows up, she will need to make decisions in her life that will affect her and those around her.
These decisions can be big or small, but no matter the size, it is always important to include our Lord in the entire process.
She was excited at the prospect of praying, waiting and discerning before agreeing to accept her ballet scholarship.
Tools To D. I. S. C. E. R. N.
I then explained that we have different tools to help us discern God’s will in our lives. And below are what you will find in this precious “toolbox”:
D – Daily Prayer Life
It is important to have a communication line open with our Lord on a daily basis. Daily devotions can include Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, Chaplet and Rosary.
But it is also important that we take the time to listen to God speak to us through quiet time, Scripture meditation or contemplation.
I explained to my daughter that we are like toasters – we have to be “plugged in” every day so that we can function the way God intended us to.
I – Interests
God also makes our purpose known through the gifts, talents, and interests He has planted in our minds and our hearts. My daughter loves to sing, dance and always wants to bring joy and beauty to her audience.
I’ve also seen her “teach” her friends in a classroom setting and explained to her that if she enjoys being in front of people so much, she may just be called to be a teacher one day :-)
S- Sacred Scripture, Silence, and Spiritual Direction
I also introduced the fact that God can speak to us so clearly in Sacred Scripture. I then showed her one of my favorite passages:
“Thy word is a lamp upon my feet and a light unto my path” – Psalm 119:105
Silence also plays a vital role in our discernment process. We have instilled a quiet hour in our home as soon as the children wake up in the morning. Each child owns their own Scripture-based devotional book and, I must confess, the stillness and the silence during this first hour truly helps set the tone for the entire day.
As they get older and are already in the stage of discerning their vocations, Sacred Scripture and silence can then be supplemented by Spiritual Direction.
C – Confirmation
I explain to my children that seeking a confirmation is very different from seeking a sign. A sign is something simply external and a confirmation stems from an internal decision in conjunction with an external answer from above. Examples can include written words from Scripture or even simple words from a family member or a friend.
This tool works beautifully with two other tools found below, namely, Reason and Novena. I encourage my children to do their research and study the pros and cons of each decision.
After their research, I tell them that it is okay to make their decision in their heart but not to act on it right away until they have received their confirmation from their Novena.
While this tool may seem to be painstakingly time-consuming, this practice allows them not to jump into any decision hastily. It teaches them to listen intently and wait patiently for Heaven’s will to unfold in their lives.
E – Events
Our Lord also allows events in our lives to happen which can help lead us to His most Holy will.
For example, we were planning on just enrolling her in ballet during summer but a door opened up and she was offered a scholarship. We then had to readjust our sails and discern from there.
And sometimes, things don’t always go as we hope, so I give my children a “mouse in a maze” analogy. There will be times in our lives where we think we are going one way, but a door closes in our path and we end up in a totally different direction.
Rest assured, even if we can’t always see our destination, I remind them that our Heavenly Father is always with us and sees our entire journey from above.
R – Reason
God gave us reason to make sound and prudent decisions. We can’t always be swept away by our emotions so we can use this gift to research the different options we have before making our decision.
I encourage my children to write down the pros and cons of each option so it makes it easier to see on paper what the best decision is.
N – Novena
A novena is a beautiful tool to help discern God’s will in our lives. When it comes to major decisions (like a move or a change of job), our family’s go-to is the 54-Day Rosary Novena.
When we need to make a decision right away, we pray the Infant of Prague Nine-Hour Novena. But all my children seem to love the St. Therese Novena for when they are doing their own discernments.
Allowing your child to choose their own novena helps them feel they are a part of the discernment process and also instills a love and devotion to a particular saint at an early age.
My daughter used most of the tools above and was delighted to receive her confirmation of white roses on the ninth day of her St. Therese Novena.
It was a beautiful sight to see as she prayed fervently, waited patiently and discerned lovingly as our Lord slowly revealed His answer to her.
When she walked into her class and told her ballet teacher about her decision, all I could see was an indescribable joy from both of their faces.
And as I watched from the window, I saw my daughter blissfully dance her heart away because she knew that Heaven was smiling down on her and she was exactly where she was meant to be.