The first TAV Talk for 2018 was held on Friday 16 March at the UWA Tavern. It proved to be a very successful evening, with many new faces joining the regular attendees. The speaker was CYM Chaplain Fr Mark Baumgarten, who gave an insightful and thought-provoking talk on a question that everyone faces at various times: “What am meant I to do with my life?”
Fr Baumgarten shared from his own life journey—having worked a variety of jobs and lived in a couple of intentional Christian communities—highlighting notable moments in the discernment process that eventually led him to the seminary.
After critiquing commonly-held life advice such as “be yourself” and “follow your heart”, Fr Baumgarten proceeded to offer a number of key points for those trying to discover their path in life. These included:
Get in a state of grace. When we turn away from God through serious sin, the key is to get reconnected with him, which is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is all about. Though we make wrong turns all the time, God reshuffles the deck and finds us a way to get back on the right track.
Be prepared to actually make a decision. Many people don’t actually like making decisions – instead, we prefer to keep our options open. But eventually we need to be willing to commit, and choosing one path means not choosing a number of other paths (some of which might seem quite nice!).
Learn how to pray. Discernment is primarily about cultivating a relationship with God: what we end up choosing is, in a sense, secondary. It’s a bit like a man seeking to know the will of the wife he loves: growing in relationship with her—understanding her more deeply, building trust—is more important than the decisions and subsequent actions they arrive at.
Fr Baumgarten then highlighted three steps in learning how to prayerfully discern:
Let yourself be loved by God. In wanting to know God’s will as quickly as possible, many people neglect the underlying reason for why we would want to do his will in the first place. We need to let ourselves be loved by Jesus, which requires getting to know him. In addition to a prayerful reading of Scripture, we can simply pray before a crucifix and ask the Lord, “Why would you love me this much?”
Surrender your will to the Lord’s. There’s a big difference between doing God’s will for you, and doing your will for God. Many people bargain with God out of fear of what his plans might be, but until we get to the point where we are willing to do anything—as long as it is what God wants—we’re just playing games. This requires trust that God’s plans are better for us than our own. The lives of the saints are wonderful examples of this truth.
Listen. Quieten down and cut out distractions. Strive to learn the difference between the gentle call of the spirit, and the disturbing call of fear. If something is from God, you will find yourself being at peace with it, despite all the voices saying why it’s a bad idea. The Lord’s call is irresistible, and ultimately outweighs all the other stuff.
After a break the session concluded with an in-depth Q&A on the finer points of discernment. Topics included knowing which decisions require discernment as opposed to those just needing common sense (such as who’s going to do the dishes on a given night!), and what to do when one’s life seems to take a massive detour.
The next TAV Talk will be held on the 8th of June at the UWA Tavern, in which Patrick McCabe will present part two of this series on life decisions. Stay tuned for details!