Editor’s Note: Missioner-in-training Maggie Van Roekel reflects on her time in Formation waiting, discerning, and planning before traveling overseas for mission.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a meticulous planner. My calendar book is my life-line and I am constantly writing to-do lists, feeling triumphant each time I can cross off a completed task.
I checked “Finish FMS application” off my to-do list in January, and I wrote down plans for attending discernment days in May. I made myself a “things to pack” list before I left for formation in August. The only question mark that seemed to remain was the country I would be serving in come January.
We’re now halfway through formation, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked the infamous question: “So, where will you be going?”
My fellow planners out there probably understand that this question scares the bejeebies out of me! I leave in approximately three months and I can’t even write where I’m going into my calendar!
My fellow missioners and I are currently in the process of discerning our mission sites. We’ve begun sessions that give us an overview of each location in Guatemala, Bolivia, and Jamaica. We have had a chance to speak with missioners in the field about their sites and some of the opportunities they’ve taken part in.
It was wonderful to have a formal formation session about discernment. We discussed what it means to discern and how to live a life of discernment in a culture that doesn’t necessarily discern. We considered what it means to be open and patient. We also discussed trusting in God’s call in our lives.
I have – more than once – caught myself becoming impatient with my own process of discernment. I want to know where I’m going! I want to plan!
But God doesn’t always recognize our want for checklists, and sometimes I’m surprised I can’t hear the sound of His belly laughs at some of the things I write in my planner. He has his own timeline, and right now I just have to wait and trust that He knows exactly what He’s doing.
Discernment won’t end when I find out my mission site placement. Even when I know where I’m going, there’s no way of knowing what my role will be. Living a discerning life means casting aside all of your preconceived notions, not only about mission, but about life and the future.
Reflection Question: what is a decision you face which you could ponder in a sense of discernment rather than impatience?