The plague of "what ifs" often hits when discerning a big step in life! Here's a question from one of our online community members about dealing with the what ifs and the results of our decisions and indecisions.

"I have been in the midst of discerning my vocation for at least 3 years now, and it keeps on going back and forth between religious life and married life. However, I know if I have a family, I will always wonder what my life would have been like if I became a religious, and vice versa.

I assume there will always be that wondering, and as you have the postulancy, you have even more time to decide? I am just worried that as more time passes, I will miss the deadline for becoming a member of a religious community and then realize that I missed my calling, that would be horrible. How does one deal with these problems that arise?"

Yes, to an extent there is always that wondering, those “what ifs.” We can only ever make the best decision with the lights that we have at the moment. With religious life, there is plenty of time for discernment. In postulancy (or candidacy) you can have 6 months to a couple years, depending on the community. Then novitiate is another 2 years, then first vows 3 years. After all this time a person takes final vows which are binding for life. So, you’ve got time built into the process of becoming a nun. It gives you time to test it, see how it feels, and discern if this is what God is calling you to.

Ultimately we make sacrifices in any life commitment we choose. But making the commitment is itself so rewarding and what makes us most fully who we are. I have no regrets — I may wonder what it would be like to be married or have kids, but I haven’t ever regretted my decision because it truly “fits” for me.

As part of your discernment, I’d encourage you to consider what is preventing you from making the next step. Consider what it would be like to take a step toward one or the other. Get to know a religious community (if you don’t already) — really the best way to discern a vocation to religious life is to spend time with the community.

What other “what ifs” sneak up in your mind? How do you deal with the “what ifs”?