By Kim Alexis
I feel like I had a hard time coming up with a discernment issue that was concrete, that affected me or that was partly my choice and that was relevant to my life. In the end, the issue I chose was “Should John & I rent a place in Vancouver for one year when we get back from our trip?” I also feel like after having taken the Soul Stream course it has given me a better idea of what discernment is and how to go about it.
At first I thought discernment meant making the ‘right’ choice among choices and that would be the only time I would be ‘walking in God’s will.’ I felt that I would make the wrong choice and God would be mad at me for not having figured it out. Yet sometimes it seemed so hidden and hard to figure out what the right choice was, especially among seemingly, equally good choices. I tried praying and waiting for the words of God to come and they didn’t. Or more likely, I just went ahead and made the choice myself with seeking any input from Him.
I now understand a bit more of the process of the feelings of consolation and desolation and the fulfillment of my own desires. Originally the discernment question was “Should John & I rent a place in Vancouver for one year?” At the course I filled in the pros and cons for choosing to move downtown and the pros and cons for choosing not to move downtown. Each seemed to have an equally long list and in this case, did not seem to make the choice any clearer.
The pros for choosing to move downtown: shorter commute for John, especially when traffic seems to be getting busier and the commute longer so more time together for us as a couple; more accessibility for me as it is now a 4.5km walk to the bus loop; I am already in Vancouver at least once a week anyways, John five days a week; fun walks, adventure of a new place and I like new adventures; closer to Imago Dei in Vancouver that we have been going to and closer to my Spiritual Director, Marijke; I have a new friend that already lives down there.
The cons of deciding to rent in Vancouver are: where will we store all our extra stuff; find good renters in a short time; wear and tear on our place from renters; displace Joash and Anna (our kids); no workshop for John to put around in; further from our small group and my best friend and walking buddy; no garden; have to live in small place and pack; find somewhere to live in expensive Vancouver.
The pros of deciding NOT to move to Vancouver: don’t have to disrupt our life; stay close to our small group and my friend; keep the space for the kids, keep vegetable garden; keep workshop for John; familiar, easy, safe; John’s already commuted for so long, what’s one more year; I get my walk in when I walk to the bus.
The cons of deciding NOT to move to Vancouver: John commutes a long ways until he retires but it is wearing on him now, more than it used to; I feel isolated most of the time in my place with no way to get out except to walk a long way for the bus; this neighbourhood is totally geared to cars and everyone is at work during the day so it is lonely; I don’t get to have a new adventure and I like having adventures; I don’t get to develop a new friendship.
Since there didn’t seem to be any clear answer and there were key issues of fatigue (John) and isolation (me), after prayer and asking God for a number of weeks, we went ahead and rented a place. We gave the owner a confirmation and were going to bring a deposit in the next day to a laneway home in Vancouver. We both slept on the issue over the night and both of us woke up in the morning and knew we could not take it. We both felt a sense of desolation around it, even though we had not felt anything while going through the process. We also knew we were leaving on an extended vacation for six weeks and felt like this was not the right time to pay rent on a new place then leave it empty and leave renters in our place with no landlords around. We phoned the person up and told him we would not take it after all. We would not be down to sign the paper work.
So at that point I felt like the issue still needed discernment but it was the timing that was not right. We felt like we were rushing into a premature decision before we left on our trip. So then I decided to pray on our trip, “should we move after we get back.” I didn’t feel any desolation around any of the cons and in fact feel a real sense of consolation and excitement that this is the right decision for us.
I had been praying about it, while we were away but could not do anything about it so far away. When we got back, I started looking online. At first, I didn’t find anything I liked. I kept looking further and further back in the postings. I found a laneway home in Vancouver that seemed like it was exactly right. But it had been posted 12 days before so I was not sure it would still be available. We called and it was. The fellow had been too busy to show the home and we were the couple that came along at the right time. He said he felt like he could trust us especially as we laid out our situation with him and what we were hoping for and the length of time for the rental (one year probably).
We went back to the car and discussed it briefly. Of course, it is a big choice and there still is no way to know if we are making the right choice until you do it. But we both felt good about taking it at this time and ready to overcome any challenges surrounding it. In fact, several of the cons had worked themselves out in the time passage. We would no longer be displacing the kids as they would both be moving by September 1 anyway. We would take this place for August 1 but would not rent our place until September 1 so it gave us more than a month to make the transition. Also, we would use our garage as the storage place so we could easily place things there that we could not fit in our new little rental and it would not cost us any more money.
Yes, we will still have to find good renters for our place but being close to Trinity Western that should hopefully not be a problem. Yes, we will be further from our small group but we can still come out on a Monday night. We went out to Vancouver at least once a week so we can come to Langley at least once a week. Yes, we will lose the garden and the workshop but they were for future endeavors and still available to us once we come back. Yes I will miss seeing my friend for a walk every day. That I cannot change. I could still talk to her every day but I will not be able to walk with her every day. I will be closer to my Mom and my sister though, and way more accessible. This I had not even factored into the decision. We also will be able to spend more couple time as John will not have a three hour commute.
I feel that in the discernment process God was using my desires for adventure, to see my husband more, to be less isolated as well as a sensitivity to the timing for the decision. I don’t think that He would have been mad at us had we chosen the first time to move. I think we would have worked through the issues. However, through the desolation we both felt, I think that God spared us from unnecessary expense and maybe problems from being an absentee landlord for those six weeks of our trip. I feel like that as I seek God and wait for His answer He will reveal the path for me to follow.
I also feel like there is less of a “right and wrong” answer for decisions where both of the choices are good. I feel like I am learning to listen better to God but that I will still make poor choices and mostly for me, rush ahead without seeking his counsel at all or not long enough. In our society, one day without an answer seems like a long time since we are so used to instant messaging and email where people respond within minutes if not seconds. I am amazed at stories in the Bible where people wait days, weeks and months for God’s answer, seemingly patiently(!) yet that seems like an impossibility in today’s day and age.
I am learning that I can’t treat God like my kids I text and demand an instant answer. It is more like the slow food movement where it takes time to grow and develop the flavours and that it is ultimately better not to have instant gratification. That is not to say that God does not hear my urgent prayer when I am in distress and cry out, “Lord, help me!” But as I seek to develop my relationship with Him, I am learning to hear His voice as I go about my day and feeling the gentle tugs at my heart through consolation and desolation and learning to pay attention to them.
Even on our trip when we were away, I tried deliberately to pay attention to how I felt about a place, if we should stay or go. There were several times when we had to take a place for the night, and I felt that God would have the right place for us. And He did. He used our desires, John’s fatigue, and the worker mentioning a recent room cancellation. We had not even mentioned that we needed a room for the night, yet God provided one before we even had to ask. God is interested in my daily life. As I practice the presence of God at all times, (not that I succeed 100% of the time), it becomes easier to hear with my heart the movements of where He wants me to go and the things He wants me to do and the person He is shaping me to be.