What Riddles and the Discernment Process Have in Common

Blog by Sr. Bea Tiboldi

Recently, I heard this riddle: “What appears 1x in a minute, 2x in a moment, but never in a thousand years?” If you keep reading, you will find the answer.

A riddle might serve as a game or an ice breaker; however, riddles remind me of the discernment process in some ways. What do riddles and the discernment process have in common?

Both take time and effort

Whether it’s figuring out the answer to a riddle or praying with God’s plan for our life, the solution or path may not be obvious at first sight. It feels great when we do figure out the answer, but many times both solving a riddle or discerning one’s vocations, take time.

Both might require digging deeper for real meaning

Sometimes, riddles are meant to trip you up, but if we take a closer look at them, they challenge us to look at things from different angles.  When we look into exploring our vocation or when we start to discern, we also look at things from different angles. For example, when discerning a specific religious congregation, you may want to look at its prayer life, charism, service or ministry, and life in community. You may also want to pray with the question: “which community can I picture myself in?” The discernment process is meant to bring us to a deeper level of self-awareness.

Both urge us to recognize what’s missing

Sometimes a riddle focuses on things that are missing.  (“What is it that has cities but no houses, that has mountains but no trees, and has water but no fish?” The answer is: a map.) The discernment process helps you identify not only what religious life is but also what it is not. Also, the process can help you identify the areas where you need to grow or to assess what might be holding you back from moving forward. Knowing what you are looking for in a community or religious like can help you narrow down your search and can help you find the congregation where you can be your best self.

Both invite us to think it through

Some riddles invite us to think logically or straightforward.  In discerning one’s vocation, we prayerfully consider pros and cons, we pray to see what path God is calling us to, which way of life (single, married, or religious life) will enable us to use the gifts that God has blessed us with.

Both might stretch us

Riddles work by making us think – beyond words, numbers, or concepts—that stretch our brains and imaginations. During the discernment process, we are encouraged to stretch ourselves to become more compassionate or to try a service or mission experience to help us find clarity with our vocation. Similar to solving a riddle, these “stretching” experiences eventually help us reach an answer.

Both encourage us to keep it simple

Some riddles are long and include extra information, and if we want to be able to solve, the riddle, the key is in keeping things simple; sometimes less is more. The same notion of keeping it simple holds true with the discernment process – don’t get tangled up in the process.  Instead, ask questions as they come up to make it easier to know your vocation and purpose.

Both encourage us to notice and be aware of ‘the hidden’

Riddles are not meant to be easy or obvious. Let’s revisit the riddle that helped me recognize what riddles and the discernment process have in common: “What appears 1x in a minute, 2x in a moment, but never in a thousand years?” In this riddle, we are invited to notice the answer within the question. The answer is, the letter “m.” Notice, the answer was there even at the time the question was asked. We, too, are encouraged to notice God’s presence, who is always present in our discernment.


If you would like to talk to a Sister about your vocation, contact us to begin a conversation.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

4 responses to “What Riddles and the Discernment Process Have in Common

  1. Thanks, Bea! The riddle you presented was so simple, yet I couldn’t look at it from a different angle. I’m glad you explained this as being tied to discernment.

  2. Dear Bea,

    Thanks for your informative and CREATIVE article on Vocation discernment. Praying it connects people at whatever stage of discernment they may be. Thankyou for all you do in our Vocation Ministry! (BTW, I enjoyed the presentation last Saturday.)


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