Devotional

Did I discern “wrongly”?

Anthony Siow // July 18, 2022, 11:24 pm

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"Spiritual discernment certainly includes wise decision-making, but it begins with a relationship with God," says Anthony Siow. Photo by Min An on Pexels.

I was lying on my bed when I glanced up at my bookshelf and recoiled in horror and amusement.

I started to give away my books on advertising when it became clear it was time to leave those nets behind. I kept a few iconic titles, as well as two books which got me excited about advertising then, but which make me cringe as they stare down on me now.

Advertising tomes that ironically reflect Anthony’s true vocation of discovering the Maker of his deep wants and desires.

The Want Makers and Creating Desire were two of the earliest books on advertising that I read. I was intrigued and fascinated by the idea of making wants and creating desires.

How that horrifies me today.

The irony is that, many years later, I discovered that my vocation centred around exactly those ideas – discovering the Maker of my deep wants, and my Creator who gifts me with my desires.

Discernment became a continual unveiling of layers of superficial desires in order to reveal my deepest desire.

We are invited to live discerning lives in which our choices define us.

Reflecting on this discovery, I realise how much discernment is an ongoing process.

Discernments are not isolated moments of decision-making. Instead, we are invited to live discerning lives in which our choices define us.

My Jesuit friend, Monty Williams, puts it well – discernments are covenant moments representing our relationship with God. Each discernment is a response out of that relationship.

In The Discerning Life, an excellent read on discernment, Stephen A Macchia expresses well a common misconception about discernment: “Spiritual discernment is much more than a how-to manual for making good decisions from a list of options. It certainly includes wise decision-making, but it begins with a relationship with God.”

I was only able to discover my calling when my relationship with God took centrestage. I began to piece together the seemingly disparate elements of my life and the seemingly irrelevant desires. Looking back, I see that what The Want Makers and Creating Desire revealed to me was my desire for the Desirer of my life.

Running after the Lord

I joined the advertising world in 1991. I began living out my calling with my ministry in 2014.

It took me over 20 years to discover what the invitations from The Want Makers and Creating Desire were. I had misread the signs. Very funny, God, couldn’t you have been more explicit at the start?

Therein lies another aspect of discernment. It is ongoing and involves waiting. And I believe one never makes a “wrong” discernment. Because discernment is not a destination but a journey and God can make straight crooked lines.

It was what Meg Hunter-Kilmer discovered. Hunter-Kilmer felt God calling her into religious life only for her to abandon it shortly after joining.

Discernment is not a destination but a journey and God can make straight crooked lines.

She gives wise advice: Stop seeking God’s will and start seeking God. Because if you run after the Lord you will find yourself in his will.

It was also what a dear friend discovered.

He quit the Jesuits only after a few months to discover and embrace his real calling in life, which includes getting married.

Another dear friend, on the cusp of being ordained as a priest after nine years in the seminary, discerned he was called to serve as a layperson after all.

Like myself, both have no regrets nor do they feel as if they wasted time and made wrong discernments.

Discover God and ultimately we will discover our deepest desire. It may just take some time.


You can read more of Anthony’s reflections here.


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About the author

Anthony Siow

Anthony left behind a fulfilling advertising career to follow God's call to cast the net elsewhere. As spiritual mentor and adjunct lecturer at the Biblical Graduate School of Theology (BGST), he leads spiritual formation retreats as part of the school's executive certificate courses for leaders.

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