Discernment. In my professional and personal life I have spent a lot of time thinking about discernment and seeking discernment. Very simply put, discernment is the conscious seeking of God’s will in one’s life. Sometimes one has a very specific question. Sometimes one is seeking direction in a larger sense. Always underneath the “what should I do” question is the “what do you- God- want me to do” question. Discernment is consciously aligning my life with God’s desires for it.
The odd thing about discernment is how difficult it can be. It seems like it should be a fairly straight forward process. If one asks a question faithfully and honestly, one could expect an answer. I mean, doesn’t God want us to seek God’s will? However if you have done any reading on the subject or participated in the process of discernment, you know how difficult discernment can be.
One can pray and ponder.
One can faithfully work though a process designed to assist one’s discernment.
One can enlist the guidance and help of thoughtful friends.
And one can make very little progress. The way forward can remain murky. The correct decision can remain obscure. Doubt can continue to prevail.
Why? Why is this so hard sometimes?
If I am asking for answers, and if God has answers, why doesn’t God just tell me?
I suspect, as always, it’s not that simple.
I tend to bring only my most difficult problems to the discernment process. Answers to tough questions can take a while to discover. And as with most things, if I practiced discernment more frequently- for some of my “smaller” questions, perhaps answers would come with less difficulty.
In addition there is the need to untangle what I want from what God desires. Usually not a simple task.
But I wonder if there isn’t something more. I used to think God knew the answer to my discernment question and was waiting, for reasons known only to God, for the correct time to tell me. I’m not so sure about that now. If God is a risk taking God who created us to be free and independent beings I wonder, is God in the process of discernment at the same time I am? If God doesn’t micromanage every event and if God is in true relationship with those God has created, does God also need to discern?
For a long time I believed there was one career for me, one best church, one appropriate path for me to follow. The older I get, the less sure I am about that. The world seems less pre determined and more flexible to me these days. I have no doubt God can manage a complex, changeable world. While God’s ultimate destiny for creation doesn’t change, the way God and we arrive at that destiny might.
And so I wonder, is God in the process of discernment with me? Is God considering my skills and abilities along with me? Is God right in the midst of my questions? Is God present in my confusion? Is God struggling toward clarity alongside me? Is discernment a process God and I undertake together?
I used to think discernment was about me waiting for God to let me in on the right answer. Now I am wondering if the discernment process isn’t a collaborative one. Perhaps discernment is God and I working together to discover an answer. Not the answer, necessarily. An answer, an answer that works for both of us. An answer that furthers God’s hopes for the world and uses whatever abilities I have.
As I think about what discernment is I’d like to know, what do you think?