Step three dealt with beginning to attune ourselves to His Voice. But even after we know of His love and choice for us, and have begun to attune ourselves to His Voice, we may soon realize that we are not completely free to give ourselves to Him.
Perhaps there are things inside us that make us hesitate or even pull away from His call. So as we consider His love and choice for us, we must also consider, “Am I free to say ‘Yes’ to Him?” What keeps us from giving our entire selves over in love to Him?
Past hurts can be complicated and complicating in the discernment process. Sometimes our sins are not the problem, but the sins of someone else who has hurt us. Past hurts can impair our ability to trust, and saying “Yes” to Jesus requires a lot of trust. These past hurts can take the form of some sort of abuse, the neglect or absence of a father or mother, rejection by a girlfriend, etc. It can be a rough out there in the brutal world. Past hurts not only hurt our ability to trust, but they can also interfere with one’s ability to receive love and to give love in return. Past hurts have a way of creating an environment of anger and fear in one’s life. Past hurts can be difficult to forgive, and any lack of forgiveness prevents us from giving ourselves over completely to Jesus. We may find forgiveness difficult because we haven’t yet dealt with the just anger we have about it. The good news is that Jesus is conqueror of sin and death, and longs to heal anyone who has been hurt so that they can receive His love and give love in return. It doesn’t matter what has happened, Jesus declares loudly to us in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
Practically a few things can be done. First, have confidence in Jesus who comes to free you and make things new in your life. I would suggest finding a priest you can trust and open up the pain to him. Just talking through it privately with someone trustworthy can bring an enormous amount of healing, and he can pray with you and offer counsel. I often suggest that the person make a list of people with whom he has “unfinished business” and then write a letter to that person, which of course they won’t send. The letter will contain what that person did and the bad impact it had on his life. This exercise helps to get the hurt and the anger out so that Jesus’ love and forgiveness can be poured in, thereby making the heart more liberated to forgive and to say “Yes” to Jesus. Sharing such letters with that trustworthy priest can bring even more healing.
Fear also inhibits our complete gift of self to Jesus in love. The fear I’m talking about is not the awe and wonder of holy fear, but rather a crippling fear. Crippling fear is never from God, but rather from the devil, and we are asked to resist it and allow Jesus to cast it out of us. A person cannot discern in fear. The fears can be varied and many: “I hear Him knocking at the door of my heart, and I’m scared to say ‘Yes’ to Him.” “I’m afraid to move away from home and my family.” “Will I be happy as a priest?” “I’ve done too many terrible things to be a priest.” “My parents want grandchildren and they won’t have any if I become a priest.” “What will be left of me if I give myself totally over to Him?” “My friends think I’m crazy for thinking about it.”
Jesus says over and over again, “Be not afraid!” Our late Holy Father, John Paul the Great echoed this line frequently, and Pope Benedict has continued it, because it is so needed. We live in a world of fear. St. John tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1Jn. 4:18). Jesus casts out fear; He can put fears to rest. He can do this when together with Him we face them with courage and bring them to prayer. I would suggest sitting before the Blessed Sacrament and simply list the fears on a piece of paper. Then go over that list with Him in prayer and ask Him conquer them in you. I would also suggest discussing these fears with a confessor or spiritual director.
Dealing with sin, past hurts and fear will free us and purify our love for Him so that His Voice can begin to resonate deep within our hearts. It will help to clear stuff away to that we can begin to see our radiant, risen Lord Jesus with our vocation in His hands. When we hear His voice and fill our eyes with His presence before us, we will be in a position to say, “Yes, Lord Jesus. I say ‘Yes’. Be it done unto me according to Your will. Yes Lord, send me.”