I am the type of person that gets hangry. I mean seriously hangry. Ask my Mom, I am not a nice person when I need food. I am also the type of person who loves designated alone time, but hates feeling lonely. I am an extrovert who needs to unplug and refuel from time to time, but prolonged solitude makes me a little crazy. I don't like how either of these things feel, and it can lead me to react in ways that I later regret. Walking through the Wrestling in Fearless and Free has made a real difference for me in these areas.
So far in our look at the Wrestling, we have discovered that to wrestle, we must grow in maturity, which only happens when we are rooted in truth. Spiritual maturity happens when we study the voice of God in Scripture and learn what it means to wield “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). One of the main purposes of this maturation is to grow in discernment.
Discernment can be such a terrifying buzzword in our Catholic culture (especially amongst young people) due to the amount of pressure put on people to “discern” the “right path” in life. But, I think it only seems terrifying because we often make discernment far more difficult than it needs to be.
Joe Paprocki, D.Min., describes discernment as “a decision-making process that honors the place of God's will in our lives.” (1) When we are discerning something, it's critical that we be able to identify the difference between truth and lies.
Discernment requires an awareness of what God says is true, mingled with an awareness of self. It is a marriage of the ability to recognize the voice of God and of the ability to be aware of ourselves - in particular, what triggers us and what makes us come alive.
As much as I would love to spend a lot of time on the latter part of self-discernment - what makes us come alive - being aware of our triggers is the most important part of our self-knowledge in terms of wrestling and discernment. Why? Because the evil one knows our triggers well and if we are unaware of them, he uses them to take us down.
To wrestle, we must be able to discern our triggers. We must be aware of what takes us down. We must stay one step ahead of the enemy so that he no longer can mess around with our hearts and actions through our triggers. True discernment of self leads to us responding rather than reacting when we are triggered.
It didn't take too long for me to figure out that I have the tendency to be an unkind human when I'm hungry, but it took me a whole lot longer to discover how much loneliness triggers me.
When I graduated from college, I moved into a one-bedroom apartment all by myself. I was stoked. That was until the loneliness kicked in. I went from craving alone time in college to despising it. I used to long for my 20-minute Netflix detox between classes, internships, and work. But suddenly, I would do anything to be surrounded by people. Before I realized the problem - the trigger - I was bombarded by lies. The devil had spotted my Achilles heel and was taking full advantage of my lack of self-awareness. He was taking me down and I was clueless.
After about a month of this, I walked into counseling because I was so confused by my perpetual displeasure with life. I usually love life. In high school, my Senior class award was “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.” I share this not to brag, but to emphasize my bewilderment when my brightness went dark.
When I explained this phenomenon to my lovely counselor, she asked me what lie I was telling myself when I was lonely. After thinking about it for a moment, I informed her that when I was alone, I told myself that no one loved me and that no one cared about me. After saying it out loud, it didn't really take her naming this as a lie for me to realize it myself. Finally, my trigger and the coexisting lie had been named.
After this happened, everything changed. I no longer experienced loneliness in my aloneness. I no longer allowed the devil to whisper his lies to me. I no longer doubted my belovedness. I knew that people loved and cared about me. And suddenly, my brightness returned.
To wrestle, to become spiritually mature, we must be able to discern our triggers. We will stop the devil in his tracks when we grow in this way.
Self-knowledge is a weapon. Awareness of self, partnered with an awareness of the voice of God will grant us the ability to wrestle fearlessly.
In Fearless and Free, Lisa shares an amazing practice written by social scientist Brené Brown. She asks us to begin using this sentence; “I am feeling ________, and the story that I'm making up is _________.” Originally, this sentence was meant for use in interpersonal relationships, but I believe we could all begin to pray with this.
When I was triggered in my aloneness, not only did I make up a lie about the people in my life, I also felt unloved and uncared for by God. I made up a story about Him too. But when we name our pain, our trigger, and the lie, we give Jesus room to share His truth with us- His version of the real story.
As you begin to wrestle, may you always recognize His voice and be self-aware enough to be able to take action and wrestle when the devil attacks. Because my friends, it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when. So throw on that armor and prepare to wield your swords.
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(1) Joe Paprocki, D.Min. “Discernment: Making Inspired Choices”, Loyola Press, https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/discernment/discernment-making-inspired-choices.