By Ardy Woodmansee January 1, 2018
In late summer 2017, I went to Germany to care for my little grandson while his Kinder Care took the usual two-week break from the kinder. For my husband Jeff and I it was a busy, fun filled time keeping up with this 3-year-old ball of energy. We were exhausted in a good way, as we climbed on to our non-stop flight to San Diego. I watched the changing landscapes below, as I settled into my seat and the 11- hour flight back home. I thought of all that waited for me at home; the volunteer work, family commitments, ministries and this old habit of over committing myself. “Ugh!” I said as I rested my head against the pillow. Closing my eyes, I began my 30 minutes of Centering Prayer. When I finished, a word came to me… Discernment! I thought about it for a moment and let it go. Several times over the course of a few days the word discernment gently nudged my being. Checking my emails, I opened Contemplative Outreach ltd.’s e- blast news. Lo and behold, I saw a new course being given by Sr. Meg Funk, Discernment Matters: Listening with the Ear of the Heart. Thus, began my study of the spiritual discipline of discernment, listening and reading the signs of my daily life through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I began with this course of Sr. Meg’s and went on to read Fr. Henri Nouwen’s book on discernment which is the title of this blog, Discernment: Reading the signs of daily life; as well as The Way of Discernment by Elizabeth Liebert. I found myself in that spiral of the Spiritual Journey, Fr. Keating often talks about. This movement of the Spirit that leads you back over events and former times in your life so that you can take a fresh look at it again, through the eyes of the Beloved.
From Sr. Meg Funk, I learned there are 5 steps of discerning a decision or event in your life. The discerning moment can be as small as purchasing a new flute…Really! First, call on the Holy Spirit which includes asking the right question. Second, over a period of days or weeks sort out your thoughts. Which one comes from God, which one from me, which one from others, which one comes from evil. ” Discern, discriminate, determine I want to go God’s way.” Third, ask the Holy Spirt for a confirming sign and these are its characteristics: It’s outside, it’s big, it comes from God and gives you the grace to carry out the decision. It pertains to the question and gives you confidence. Fourth, ritualize this confirmation. Lastly, guard the heart and never ever go back. Watch your thoughts. Sr. Meg says the Holy Spirit wants to be ask into the minutia of our decisions, minute by minute, cell by cell.” Discernment is being in the details of life. Wanting to know the Holy Spirit face to face, ear to ear, cheek to cheek.” We find discernment not through our thinking but through our contemplative mind. What’s most helpful is to have a contemplative discipline of prayer.
From Henry Nouwen, I learned we find discerning guidance in books, nature, people and life events. He goes on to say,” Like the people of Israel, who repeatedly reflected on their history and discovered God’s guiding hand in the many painful events that led them to Jerusalem, so we pause to discern God’s presence in the events that have made or unmade us.”
I am still reading, pondering and working on discerning the events of my life through the insights of these two great wisdom teachers. It has been a slow process for me. Careful discernment they say, is a lifelong task.
What spiritual practice has shaped your life with God? Do you have a discernment process you do with the events of your daily life?