Discernment Part 1: A Personal Story

By Kathy Keary

Our full series in the Contemplative Prayer Video Series is here.

Revisit earlier articles in our Contemplative Life Series here.

Part 1 of 4. Find all the articles in the Discernment series here

As a spiritual director, it is not uncommon for people to seek my assistance as they sort out where God is leading them. We all engage in discernment throughout our lives with varying degrees of consequence. As we begin a series on discernment, I offer a snippet of my own story.

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It was Christmas Day 2005. I was sitting at the island in my kitchen wrapped up in solitude and quiet. The details of the day escape me other than I know I was not in prayer when I distinctly heard God’s voice in the depths of my soul, “Will you devote your life to me?” I did not ask for clarification, for instructions, for details, for anything. I simply said without hesitation, “Of course!”

At the time, I was well entrenched in Corporate America, but the other side of me had been emerging over the previous few years. When 4:30 hit each evening, I was off to that other life. It was a life focused on God and his precious ones, those that Matthew 25 names “the least among us.” I was engaged in multiple endeavors lifting up those challenged by homelessness and poverty and in social justice pursuits.

Over the next several months, my promise to God repeatedly haunted me. I was perplexed. Would God have presented this question to me if he was not calling me to grow, to change, to perhaps leave behind what I was clinging to, the livelihood that provided well for my daughter and me, the paycheck that assured her college education? The world did not stop when the big question came my way. In the midst of all the noise and clutter, I struggled to put together the pieces of God’s call. When I became content with the current state of affairs, God nudged me, prodded me, and reminded me of my promise.

‘I will not pretend that I did not struggle with the decision of letting go of the old to make room for the new.’

I had a strong sense that I was being led to study theology. I found this confusing as it seemed that perhaps social work would be the course of study more aligned with my current interests.

At the time, I was facilitating JustFaith as a volunteer at my parish where we were introduced to people who totally changed their occupation in answer to God’s call leaving behind a sense of security. God took good care of them as they enjoyed the fruits of answering the yearnings of their heart. This was an alluring factor for me as well as the people who encouraged me to take the leap even though there were a few who discouraged me.

Of course, I tried to discern why God was leading me in this direction, but I received the reply that he was guiding me one step at a time and to trust him. I am sure people questioned my sanity when they learned that I took the plunge in 2007. I quit my job to work on a master’s degree in theological studies without a clue as to what the next steps would be.

When it came time to go back to gainful employment, I remained clueless as to which direction God was pointing. As the bread winner for the household, I was concerned, to put it mildly, as to where this was going. I asked God to let me know in a dream, and he answered my prayer. That night I dreamt that I was happily working in a church.

I was pleasantly surprised when I interviewed with the pastor at The Church of the Annunciation in Kearney, Missouri, in that we really seemed to click on a spiritual level. Also, when he showed me the church, I had a strong sense that I was on holy ground. The Spirit of God permeated the space, and I felt it to my core. Both of these were signs that this is where I was to be. I eventually went to work there utilizing not only my new education in theology but also my love for social ministry and social justice.

‘I am so thankful that God gave me the grace to follow his lead even when I wasn’t sure where we were going.’

I interpreted the fact that my daughter and I both graduated on the same day as God saying, “I told you I would take care of you.” This experience taught me that when God calls me to a task, he will give me what is needed to fulfill his plan. Perhaps this is why this scripture passage is one of my favorites: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. On your own intelligence rely not. In all your ways, be mindful of him and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

My previous life in the world of business is now a vague memory. I will not pretend that I did not struggle with the decision of letting go of the old to make room for the new. I am so thankful that God gave me the grace to follow his lead even when I wasn’t sure where we were going. There have definitely been challenges along the way, but I have found much joy, peace, and fulfillment in this new life where I allow God to take the lead.

“This article was originally published in The Contemplative Life Series on July 27, 2020.”

[Kathy Keary, spiritual director, holds a bachelor’s degree in education, a master’s degree in theological studies, and completed Sophia Center’s Souljourners Program, an intense study of spirituality and spiritual direction. Kathy believes that the Divine is present and active in all of life and encourages others to be awakened to the God in all including the Divine within. She enjoys accompanying others on their journey to wholeness discovering the person they were created to be.]

Images by Jan Alexander from Pixabay


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