Discernment

Discernment

I experience life as a conversation between the Divine and myself. I am not merely acted upon. Nor do I live in isolation. Life is made up of a sharing of hopes, dreams, and ideas. It is a mutual act of creation.

This means that I need to regularly pause to listen, to reflect, to dream, and to wonder. I need to discern the course ahead.

One of the most important things in this process of living is to remember that I need to pause – to stop for a while. It is too easy to forget this. It is too easy to think that life is one-sided; made up of actions for which I am solely responsible. 

Moving ahead in life without pausing to discern the way forward is like driving a car with one’s eyes closed. You turn the steering wheel and regulate the speed . . . but with no real sense of where you are or where you are going. It is a perfect formula for ending up in life’s ditches.

But, when I do pause regularly, when I take the time to be in relationship with the Divine as I make the choices before me in life, it makes for a life marked by beauty and joy.

What does it mean to listen to the Divine?

When I was younger, I often thought that this was something that must be difficult. Shouldn’t talking with God be hard? You are talking with the Creator, after all.

Even then, however, I had a sense that I was missing something very near and very much a part of who I am. In my efforts to pray and to listen to God, I was (figuratively) drowning out a clear voice with all my talking and deliberate efforts. It was like cranking up the volume on a recording of Gregorian chants in order to call forth God’s whispers that I could not hear on account of the ruckus.

I think we all have an innate connection with the Divine. God’s voice is always there. It can be heard in our intuitions, in our gut feelings, and in our dreams. Most of the time it is there with us in a calm way that does not blow trumpets and does not announce itself with thunder and lightning. (Though I do think there are times when God will use very dramatic ways of getting our attention – but that is not how I have experienced God’s voice from day-to-day.) What I need to do is ‘turn down the volume’ of many aspects of my life and focus on the gentle sounds and intuitions . . . very much like relaxing and listening to the wind in the trees.

Then, when I speak (pray), I do so quietly. God is not hard of hearing.

For a long time, I have had a conversational sense of prayer. Sometimes, when I need it, I will address God in more formal and structured prayers. But, most of the time I speak to God as I would to you. It is the informality of intimacy.

I also open myself to visual images and emotional feelings. What comes my way when I share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams?

In discernment it is usually a good thing not to rush. Yes, there are times when decisions need to be made quickly. But quickly usually does not mean ‘right now!’ Even a single moment spent discerning the right choices in a crisis can be beneficial to everyone. When there is less of a press upon time, it is often good to take more time and to be at peace with intervals of silence in the conversation with God.

We are always making choices. We are always in need of discerning the best choices to make. Especially when we feel stressed – it is important to recall that we are not living this life alone. Our best choices are made when we know that our life is part of the Divine Life as well.

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