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Practicing our Faith, Editor Dorothy BassDiscernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life, by Henri Nouwen
Christian discernment is not the same as decision making. Reaching a decision can be straightforward: we consider our goals and options; maybe we list the pros and cons of each possible choice; and then we choose the action that meets our goal most effectively. Discernment, on the other hand, is about listening and responding to that place within us where our deepest desires align with God’s desire. As discerning people, we sift through our impulses, motives, and options to discover which ones lead us closer to divine love and compassion for ourselves and other people and which ones lead us further away.Discernment reveals new priorities, directions, and gifts from God. We come to realize that what previously seemed so important for our lives loses its power over us. Our desire to be successful, well liked and influential becomes increasingly less important as we move closer to God’s heart. To our surprise, we even may experience a strange inner freedom to follow a new call or direction as previous concerns move into the background of our consciousness. We begin to see the beauty of the small and hidden life that Jesus lived in Nazareth. Most rewarding of all is the discovery that as we pray more each day, God’s will—that is, God’s concrete ways of loving us and our world—gradually is made known to us.
The practice of discernment makes intentional a process of reflection on and participation with God’s Spirit as the fundamental context in which we live and make choices. It is embedded in a variety of forms, all of which aim to check deception and nurture openness to the new creation.