Conversations 6.2: Discernment
“The guiding image for the Conversations Journal is a large table in front of a warm fire. Seated together are representatives from the prominent tributaries of Christian spirituality—incarnational, contemplative, evangelical, holiness, charismatic, and social justice. Each is participating in a dialogue, sharing with unusual transparency about authentic transformation and why it seems so difficult actually to become like Jesus.” (Editors, Vol 3.2)
As we delve into another issue of Conversations let that imagery invite your presence to the table as well. This month we’ll be studying the topic of Discernment, with a re-release of the Fall 2008 issue on that subject. This journal will have a permanent home here at Conversatio, with a companion course that allows readers to take the topic a bit deeper, and journey into your own thoughts on the topic.
If you’ve ever thought of discernment to be merely about decision making, keep reading. As Gary W. Moon writes in the opening pages, “the best way to ‘hear’ God is through knowing him—the process of being mutually indwelt, one within the other—in a passionate relationship in which listening for God’s voice is only one aspect of the deeper goal: enjoyment of a perpetual and transforming friendship in which we best know God’s will by knowing God.”
In this issue of Conversations, you’ll find a variety of articles written to enhance understanding of discernment. The writers have given special attention to offering suggestions for experience and praxis, as well as new ways to think about this ancient spiritual discipline. Thomas Green writes the lead article and unpacks the scriptural basis of discernment, reminding us that “Discernment is the essential link between our prayer relationship with the Lord and our life of loving service to His people.” A helpful interview with Kim Engelman offers suggestions for discerning when suffering is part of a true or false spirituality. The writers in this issue also share authentic, personal stories of discerning God’s voice. Like Kendra Allen, who writes about her journey from grief to hope. Steve Doughty reminds us that the process of discernment isn’t a time-limited endeavor, but a journey of deep listening, often involving a community of believers. The regular features are included too—so take your time; as this issue is rich in content. It’s also full of invitations to spend time in solitude listening for God’s voice.
“Our irritation that discernment is a process requiring time and reflection reveals that we are hooked on outcomes and productivity,” says Jan Johnson. “Discernment both eludes us and surprises us because it’s more about relationship than outcomes. God is not a dispatcher of answers from a faraway office, but an up-close-and-personal being who wants to converse back and forth with us. God is relentlessly relational, inviting us into an interactive life so that discernment and decision making are fleshed out through ongoing nudges within our everyday life.” The self-knowledge required to discern well takes time and attention. As Augustine prayed, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know Thee.”
Perhaps you were a subscriber, and you read this journal when it arrived in your mailbox many years ago. Consider revisiting some of the articles to see how your journey with God has opened you to hear his voice. We’ve included a classroom experience for the Ruth Haley Barton essay, “Discernment: Recognizing and Responding to the Presence of God.” Follow the link below to access the course and discussion questions for more on the topic of discernment.
See class here.