I’ve often heard while discerning my vocation to the priesthood that a vocation is like a seed: you don’t know what it is until you water it and give it time to sprout. Oh, and digging up the seed won’t help to figure out what type of plant it will become. There’s an emphasis on the providence of the Good God, the security of being under his loving care, and of following his subtle lead as presented to you in your daily life with the guidance of your spiritual director. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

My experience is that this is true – worry anxiously about your vocation and you’re sure to go down the wrong road. Give yourself time and keep watering your soul with the sacraments to let the seed grow and you’re sure to make a better decision. But that last element of “decision” is what I think is lacking in the metaphor of the seed – your own personal role in the vocation. After all, discernment is between you and God, not just God alone. What happens when we see discernment as only God’s decision without my input? We become God’s puppet.

It would seem that God is unbending, rigid, as if God planted the seed without our knowing. Perhaps the unchangeableness of the seed could lead to feeling oppressed or forced to become something that I have no say in. All I can do is water the seed, but I have no say in what type of plant it will become. You have no say in the matter. NO. That’s not the idea of discernment because it’s not relational.

Discernment is about a relationship (between you and God) and where that relationship is leading you. Surely God is leading the dance, but by no means does that mean that you have no say in the matter. What kind of dance would that be?

God providentially knows where the dance is leading us, but mysteriously, he still allows for our twists and turns as well, always inside of his providence. Discernment doesn’t happen in a vacuum, separated from concrete circumstances, reality, and situations of life because relationships are not in a vacuum or separated from concrete situations of life. It’s a messy process which demands to get one’s hands dirty. Of course we’re getting our hands dirty with the awareness that all things work to the good for those who love God (Romans 8:28).

For those interested in knowing a little more about these topics, you could read a book on discernment – “Weeds Among the Wheat” by Thomas Green and “Authenticity: A Biblical Theology of Discernment” by Thomas Dubay are among my recommendations. Also, feel free to share your comments below about your thoughts on the metaphor of the seed for discernment. May God continue to be a lamp for our feet in our path to eternal blessedness with him (Ps 199:105).

Photo Credit: Adam Selwood