Conversatio Divina

Part 16 of 17

Defining Our Terms: Discernment

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

Each issue of Conversations is built around a theme from spiritual formation literature. In this issue our contributors are working with the subject of “discernment.” While the editors invite a variety of voices to the table, we have come to believe it may be helpful to our readers if we offer some definitional clarity as an anchor point. We are delighted that InterVarsity Press has agreed to contribute this column, “Defining Our Terms.” The table below is taken from a book by one of their authors, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, titled Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform UsAdele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005) 98. Used with permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, and on the two most prominent themes for this issue of Conversations.

01.  Discernment

Desire: To delight in and recognize the voice and will of God
Definition: Discernment opens us up to listen to and recognize the voice and patterns of God’s direction in our lives.
Scripture: “Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you: but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7, NIV)

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.” (Philippians 1:9–10, The Message)

“Test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” (1 John 4:1, NIV)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5, NIV)

Practice Includes:
  • Taking time to listen to God, not hurrying to make a decision
  • Seeking to bring both head and heart into alignment with God’s will
  • Asking for help, counsel, and guidance
  • Going on a retreat to gain perspective and listen to God
  • Attending to the desires God has placed deeply inside you
  • Naming your addictions, predilections, prejudices, unbelief, and so on in order to understand how these play into making decisions
God-Given Fruit:
  • Listening in prayer for the nudging of the Spirit
  • Ability to wait for God rather than just deciding
  • Freedom from rationalizing your choices
  • Seeking the Guide rather than a map for your life
  • Recognizing your motivations and the source of your deep gladness
  • Being able to read both your mind and heart when making decisions
  • Being attached to God’s love and will alone