For the past eight years, I’ve watched my husband prayerfully discern every move he’s made, career or otherwise.
Discernment is something we are all encouraged to do, but I don’t know of anyone who is as intentional and patient in the process as Matt.
For years, this ongoing process has been focused. It has taken us to places I never thought I would go, to cities I never dreamed of living in, and throughout, encouraged a truly faith-filled marriage.
As a journalist, I’ve always known my job to be flexible and I’ve done my own reflecting over the years and changed career trajectories when the opportunities allowed. While this is a reflection on my husband’s prayerful discernment, I should mention that I have always felt privy to this experience and fully a part of the process.
Trying to figure out God’s plan is not easy. It takes time and patience. Often it can mean confusing, and perhaps frustrating, the ones who love you most.
I can’t pretend that this slow discernment process was always easy for me to witness. I’m a planner who wants every next move figured out ahead of time, and not knowing where we were going to live next, what job I would have to try and find, or when the next time we would need to rent a U-Haul, did not always sit well with me.
But the Holy Spirit doesn’t always work in ways that “make sense” to us at the time.
The gift of knowledge allows us to see the truths of our faith and live out those truths, particularly when it comes to letting go of material wealth and seeking the true will of God.
In a 2004 homily about the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Robert E. Barron said, “We spend a lot of intellectual energy worrying about … worldly things. These gifts of understanding and knowledge orient our minds toward the deep things of God.”
Bishop Barron quotes St. Augustine as saying, “Understanding and knowledge refer to our appreciation for, our savior for, the holy things of God.”
Matt’s quest for living out his true purpose in life brought us to a year in Ohio while he did an AmeriCorps stint, two years in New Haven, Connecticut (what could have been three years if he had not changed course from a three-year master’s degree), and then to a year-and-a-half internship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops before he settled into his current job as a farmer.
Do you see what I mean about not always making sense?
But when I look back at it all now — and I know we still have much more discerning to do now that our family is growing — it really does all make sense. Each step along the way has perfectly set up the next one for him, and really, for us.
As part of his discerning, Matt set goals and kept to important habits. He got up every morning and walked a mile each morning that we lived in New Haven, often taking me along to fill me in on his latest thoughts or find out how I was feeling about our future — even if the future just meant that evening. He set aside 15 minutes every day to pray — a habit that has continued to this day.
I see now how the gift of knowledge has led Matt to find his true calling … at least until the next move. He started on this journey as an environmental engineering major, as a result of a choice he made in high school because he always said outside is where he felt God’s presence most.
Now, he spends most of his days caring directly for a small part of God’s creation, and donating all food grown and harvested to the poor. This perfect fit for his passions and skills is a product of the Holy Spirit. There’s no doubt about it.
By Anna Jones, Catholic News Service
Jones is a freelance writer.