Word of the Week

Word of the Week: Discernment

Want to share this with someone?

How do I know what God wants me to do in _____ situation?

In my day job as a pastor, people ask me this a lot. I usually feel inadequate when asked (not because I'm not confident in my training as a minister to help people the best I can) but because what the person is asking is something I can't give in a fill-in the blank style of response.

To this question enter this week's word: discernment.

Discernment is defined as: the quality of being able to grasp or comprehend what is obscure.

We discern what might previously have seemed unattainable or unclear by a process of coming to know.

When I was a kid growing up in the church, I heard a lot about the actions of discernment such as reading scripture, praying, and being quiet in worship. I remember one Sunday School teacher telling me once that if we prayed long enough, we'd always know what God wanted us to do with our lives. For some maybe this is true.

But, as I’ve grown in faith, I’ve come to see a way of discernment isn't always about do this, then you'll get that. It’s actually much more messy.

Sometimes, actually often times, discernment for me looks like the simple practice of putting one step in front of another and seeing what comes. Sometimes it means you'll never get the answers to the big questions you're asking. Sometimes you do. Sometimes you don't.

Sometimes discernment comes through a word of a friend that we can’t seem to get out of our minds.

Sometimes discernment springs forward from an intuition that can’t be shaken, no matter what occurs.

Sometimes discernment comes as we stand still and see a life direction falling together in ways that we know we could never dream up or orchestrate on our own.

Discernment looks like me walking alongside you, you walking alongside me with open eyes, attentive feet and ears to hear the Great Mystery of: “This is the way, walk in it.” And then you know.

Maybe you know what you know forever. Or maybe it changes a week later.

I always try to remember one of my favorite prayers from Thomas Merton when he speaks to the fact that as much as we think we are doing God’s will, we may not be.

For, anytime we enter the deep waters of the big questions of our lives and of the universe, we must remember this: God is God and we are not. God's ways are not our ways. God's thoughts are not our thoughts.

But here's the grace-- God is with us as we go, as we sit, as we rest with uncertainty, as we figure stuff out in the middle of the night and in the daytime too. And so eventually we find our way. We do.

You are doing such brave work choosing a spiritual path. And I'm proud to be among you.