Do you ever feel like your life is a puzzle where the pieces don’t fit? Or a puzzle that is near complete, but that last piece won’t fit? Do you ever find yourself trying to force it? Telling yourself if this piece would fit, then everything would go according to plan. Do you ever step back and ask yourself if the piece actually belongs there? Life is simply various jigsaw puzzles we are trying to piece together, different puzzles at different stages of our lives, and often we may have more than one puzzle being put together at the same time. It may seem hard to walk away from an unfinished puzzle, but we need to ask ourselves: Are we trying to force the piece, or are we prayerfully discerning the jigsaw? My whole life I knew I was going to work in the healthcare field, although I wasn’t exactly sure what sort of practitioner I would be, I began putting these pieces together around 6th grade. However, as an ‘atheist’ at this point in my life, I didn’t understand the concept of ‘discerning’ or the whole ‘thy will be done’ thing. So I began forcing pieces, planning my future, my college career, where I would go to graduate school, etc. I had this whole puzzle planned in my head, and to my surprise, it didn’t come true; well not exactly how I had initially planned it to be. As we know, rarely do things go according to (our) plan. Long story short, I ended up rushing to finish this puzzle too, and like the others, the last piece did not seem to fit, something didn’t seem right. It wasn’t until I took a step back and actively listened to what the Lord was calling me to do, could I be at peace. Only, after discernment, then did the pieces fit together.
"Are we trying to force the piece, or are we prayerfully discerning the jigsaw?"
Like many experiences we encounter we must ask ourselves: are we actually listening and absorbing the information or is it saying hold true: ‘going in one ear and out the other’. For example, how many people actually listen and give their undivided attention towards the safety features of this Boeing 737 aircraft. ‘To fasten your seatbelt please place the’, are your headphones in? “In the unlikely event of a water evacuation, your seat cushion’, are you asleep yet? ‘Although not expected, should sudden cabin pressure change’ are you talking to your neighbor? The best is all this information can be found on the safety information card in the seatback pocket, but do we pick it up and take the time to go over it? Likewise, are we picking up our bibles and reading them? Or are they just sitting in the seatback pocket? Our deposits of faith, and especially the writings of the Communion of Saints, have given us some tools on how to discern our own jigsaws. St. Ignatius of Loyola, before he died, created a method for discernment, specifically establishing rules for discerning the spirits. The rules are consistent with a contemplative form of prayer. Often, they are followed and given through silent retreats over a four week period. However, the rules can and should be applied to our daily lives in order to enable us to better discern the Lord’s will for us. The first four rules consist of definitions that create a foundation for the ones to follow.
RULE 1: When a Person Moves Away From God
This describes a person who is going from mortal sin to mortal sin as if nothing is wrong. The devil advocates a pattern by ‘promising’ sensual delights. The reason why we sin is because we like it, there are certain pleasures, however, as we are all too familiar with, it is short-lived. Just like in every cartoon there is a devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. In persons who are moving away from God, the Spirit uses our moral judgement to ‘bite’ and ‘sting’ our conscience.
RULE 2: When a Person Moves Towards God
This rule describes those persons who are moving towards God. There is inherently nothing wrong with conforming to this definition, even if at some points it stirs up some discomfort. This person is moving forward with purifying their sins, through strength, courage, tears, consolations, inspirations, quiet, and easing all given to us from the Spirit. But just like anything else, nothing is easy. The devil may place obstacles in our way and try and give us false reasons to turn away.
RULE 3: Spiritual Consolation
Spiritual Consolation is an interior movement in which our soul becomes ‘inflamed with the love of its Lord and Creator.’ The good Spirit provides good counsel via his presence and peace.
RULE 4: Spiritual Desolation
On the contrary to rule three, spiritual desolation is darkness of the soul, a disturbance in it. Creating a feeling as if one is separated from their Creator and Lord. The bad Spirit (satan and his minions) provides bad counsel.
RULE 5: Spiritual Desolation: A Time for Fidelity
This rule only applies to those who are in spiritual desolation. ‘In times of desolation never make a change, but be firm and constant in the proposals and determination in which one was the day preceding such desolation. When in a state of desolation, this rule is one of the most difficult to abide to. Largely, because our human instinct takes over to try and escape the current situations, but we need to realize it is the bad Spirit giving us counsel, and very often attempting to lead us astray from the right answer.
"The rules can and should be applied to our daily lives in order to enable us to better discern the Lord’s will for us."
The rules provided above can help us step away and allow the Lord to place the pieces, because only he knows where the perfect piece fits. When we try and force the pieces, we are forcing our expectations on God. However, when we allow God to place the pieces. We are giving him control, and those are Him listening to our authentic desires and expectations lead to desolation, while authentic desires of the heart lead to consolation.
Let us ask our God to bring us to peace and understanding of the puzzle he has created and the one in which all of the pieces fit together perfectly. May we fearlessly trust in God's will.