So Many Choices, One Life to Live by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF

by Sister Julie Ann on November 17, 2008

dscf0754.JPG“What will I do with this one, precious life I have?” This seems to be the underlying question I hear from my younger clients as I see them for spiritual direction. As a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity, I have an inclination to turn to St. Francis for some guidance, myself, as I assist others in navigating this path of choices in life. How did Francis come to understand God’s call, God’s will for his life? He prayed for guidance, he listened, he consulted with others and he was willing to grow in his understanding of God, of life and of his unique call and ministry.

 

img_4895.jpgI find some young adults begin to think seriously about their call to a lifestyle late in high school or early in college. Am I called to be single, married, a religious sister, brother or priest or a diocesan priest? Some put this discernment off for several years and concentrate on a career first, be it education, business, health care, or one of the myriad choices one has to make regarding how one will pay bills, serve others and find a certain joy in the workplace. It is easy to confuse a lifestyle and a career choice but they are radically different.

 

A lifestyle demands a life long commitment, an investment of love, a willingness to blend and negotiate with others, a fundamental focus of time, energy and talents. It is a basic way of seeing the world and finding a “fit” that brings joy and a sense of “being at home” in the world. It is often accompanied by vows to God in a community, vows to a diocesan bishop or vows to a spouse. In all cases a person opens to a vulnerability to others and trusts that their life is given over to a process greater than the self. The single life, too, has its own demands of time, energy and vulnerability where a person commits to caring for others in a unique way suited to their temperament. None of these lifestyles are successful if a person is self-centered and calculates “what’s in it for me?” The nature of a lifestyle is self-giving and other-centered. When questioned about discerning a lifestyle, I encourage the young adult to pray for guidance, listen to how God is speaking in their heart, consult with others and then take some action. Be willing to continue to clarify your calling as your prayer, your significant family members and friends continue to interact with you.

 

img_4897.jpgI hear comments that some young adults have prayed reverently and long, asking God for guidance, but to no avail. My response is: God speaks in your deepest heart and in those around you. God speaks to you through others, especially those with the wisdom of experience and true friends who will be candid with you about your temperament and gifts. God is not sending emails and text messages but is very present in your life. Ask for help from others to see how God is working and then listen carefully for a response. A lifestyle call may take some years to emerge so be patient and watchful. A mentor or spiritual director can be helpful in discerning a call to a lifestyle.

 

img_4359_1155.jpgA career, on the other hand, is a particular way that people can express themselves in an ever-changing world. As a religious sister, I have had four careers and may have some more in the future. My siblings have both had several careers. As our world and culture change and develop, new careers open and people can find themselves in a position where their career is no longer viable. Some elements in choosing a career are the same as discerning a lifestyle. Consulting with trusted others is a must. They often have valuable information about your talents and gifts and may help to predict some challenges you will face.

 

Whenever you are making an important decision, whether it may be a lifestyle or a career, here are five important discernment guidelines my clients have found helpful:

 

  1. What makes you “deep down happy”? When does your “heart sing” with joy? Follow that intuition. God speaks through our deepest desires. God desires our happiness.  
  2. What kind of support do you need to follow your dream? Where will you get that support? Can you ask for support if it is not forthcoming?
  3. How do you manage financially? It is not wise to attempt to enter any lifestyle carrying a lot of debt. What kinds of choices will you make to be financially sound?
  4. Realistically, what career choice will pay bills, offer you flexibility for your lifestyle options and motivate you to get up in the morning? Is the career you are pondering ethical? Will it make the world a better place? Do you have the physical, mental and emotional stamina required by this career? For example: if you plan to have children, will your career allow for spouse and family life? If you think you might be called to a religious life, will this career fit into that vocation?
  5. Are you able to share your thoughts, dreams, ideas, joys and challenges with others? All lifestyles and most careers demand this type of interaction. If you find this difficult, how can you develop these skills?

 

Whether you are discerning a lifestyle or a career, are you willing to pray, ask for guidance, consult with others and then take concrete steps, actions, to move toward your dreams? With one precious life to live, may you live it abundantly!

 Sister Anne Marie Lom is a Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity. She is a spiritual director for her religious community as well as for St. Raphael Parish, Oshkosh, WI. Choose God.

66 thoughts on “So Many Choices, One Life to Live by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF”

  1. Taylor,

    Your insight hits “the nail on the head”. God IS hearing and God IS speaking… we need to hear God’s language through the scriptures, through those who love and care about us, through our own prayer and discerning, through noticing the gifts and talents God has given us. Good for you that you sense that “God works through all of us”.

  2. Ricardo R says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. I agree with a lot of the things you said. I also believe that although we need God in our life, one still has to do things for themselves. I dont feel that we can always pray and depend on God for everything, because like you said in your article sometimes, God doesnt respond to me. Sometimes i have to lead my own life, and make my own decisons. as long as i know its a decison that God would be happy i made, even though he didnt directly tell me to make it.

  3. edgar says:

    I think that this article is very truthful. It is truthful becasue this article talks about how we are going to face challanges in our life. One of our biggest challange in our life would be to choose one of the styles of life. I think that this is the hardest part of our life because that would mark our future. I personally think that whatever the style of life you choose you should live it to the fullest. I think that living a life to the fullest is that you enjoy the things that you do in the life style you did. I think that with this article some of my doubts are clear, and I think that the my lifestyle would be married. I think that because I want a family but you never know what might happen in your life. But I think that God has given us a different lifestyle and we have to find it.

  4. Trey Graham says:

    This article was very well written and it helped me figure out what I have to do to find out what I want to do in life. I hope that I eventually find what I love to do and can make a career out of it.

  5. Stephanie Glosser says:

    I really liked this article. I am a senior in high school trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. This article has helped me understand the importance of finding what will make me happy and how prayer can help me. This article also made me realize that it is alright to have more than one career in life and sometimes it is God’s calling to live one particular lifestyle with multiple careers. Sister Anne Marie’s article is very inspiring and helpful for me.

  6. michael brazeel says:

    I liked this article because God doesn’t tell us what to do with our lives and careers. He gives us different signals and callings, that will lead us to what is best for us.

    God is love,
    Mike B

  7. Austin Rodriguez :) says:

    This websites hits close to home because i am a high school student and am diciding what i want to do with my life. I have prayed long and hard often and felt like i was not getting any respose. However, i waited and waited and later had a sign that was not as obvious as i thought, but still an answer. We must wait and be patient for God’s response.
    P.S. i did the song too sister so look it up 🙂

  8. Eduardo Moreno says:

    I seek God’s help in helping me decide many of my choices. In this time of my life, I have many choices, I usually decide what’s best for me and others. I think this essay could help many people in choosing between different alternatives, it definitely help me in how to think and organize my thought in choosing my options. I agree that many young adults seek God’s help in ways he wont show it. I’ve learned throughout my life that you can seek God through prayer and meditation. God will definetly help you and He will always be there for you.

  9. matthew inman says:

    in my life i keep my eyes open to see signs from god. i believe everyone has a purpose in this world and that god has a plan for everyone. i dont think that everyone succeeds to their purpose but staying close to god is the only way you can insure it.

    god bless
    matt inman

  10. Sister Jan Villemure says:

    Hello all you Shamrocks from YCHS,
    Your answers to Sr. Anne Marie’s reflection questions and your comments on these blogs make me realize how deep is the refection, prayer, and decision-making you are doing. You see the importance of listening to the Lord in prayer, listening to others and and to your own hearts. What you have shared in our Christian Living class has helped me to grow and you have helped one another greatly. How perfect that Sister Anne Marie’s article appeared at the end of our course, and as you are discerning the next step of your lives. It was truly God-sent through Sr. Anne Marie who is one with Him. See what good comes of a life lived for HIM.
    Sister Jan -Yuma Catholic High School

  11. Jayven Jackson says:

    This article has helped me think about what I should do with my future. It let me thik what endless possibilities I could acheive with my life. It has also helped me to think about the major I want to get in college.

  12. I am so grateful for Sr. Jan’s comment as well as each insight of the Yuma Catholic students. I have learned so much from the lively exchanges on the blog and on my article. It has been almost one month of reflecting and commenting on discerning important movements of God in our lives.

    I hope other religion instructors will tap into this blog site for theological discussion and sharing.

    And a special thank you to so many St. Raphael parishioners and friends for their additions.

  13. ESS says:

    very interesting article – the one point i have difficulty with is talking about it with my family – any suggestions?

    soul stirring experinces – being with God, just simply being – allowing God to be, knowing that in my heart of hearts, he is always there, not giving up, trusting, and getting up when i fall

  14. ESS,
    You pose an interesting and complicated question: sharing with family. Sometimes it is most difficult to share “matters of the heart” with family. We don’t want to disappoint or alienate those who have supported us for so many years. My suggestion:when there is a normal opportunity in a conversation, gradually send out messages/questons about what you want to share such as: What do you think about people who have a noticeable relationship with God? OR What happens when someone has a dream and they are afraid to share that dream with others? That way you will be able to gauge the level of acceptance for what you want to share. If you are met with a hostile response, talk about someone you care about who has a dream or something else to share. It may soften the heart of the listener.
    Also, I have found that the response to a loved one is often softer and more acceptable than the response to a stranger. You may find more acceptance and affirmation than you expect.
    As I say to my clients in spiritual direction: do you want to pay the price for silence or pay the price of claiming your own identity? There is always risk; most people will risk on the side of being true to themselves rather than risk silence out of fear.
    I hope this helps. I hope to hear from you on the blog again.

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