BY REV. CORY L. KEMP |
Use good judgment. Follow conventional wisdom. Apply common sense. All of these everyday adages make sense and provide clear guidance in many potentially sticky situations.
Until you remember that we believe in a God who takes us off the beaten path, where good judgment has already flown out the window, and conventional wisdom has not yet arrived. Common sense? Not even an option for what God has in mind.
What do you use when your go-to decision-making methods don’t fit the situation you are facing?
What you do is turn to discernment.
While good judgment, conventional wisdom and common sense are all valuable resources for modern living, they are limited, as are all human inventions.
As we are created in God’s image and partners in creating God’s kingdom here on earth, we need more than human inventions when called upon to help build and expand what God has in mind. Discernment is a powerful tool for achieving God’s intentions among us here on earth.
What is discernment? Discernment is paying attention for God’s activity, seeking spiritual guidance and understanding, then taking action from this perspective.
This problem-solving approach sounds familiar, almost simple, like a Sunday morning liturgy come to Wednesday afternoon work. It is familiar and it is simple.
But it usually isn’t easy.
Why isn’t it easy? Because easy, or at least easier, solutions rely on past experience and the human expectation that those past experiences will create the same results. Easier feels not only familiar, but also safe, secure and controllable. We human beings like all of these very much, especially when faced with a difficult situation that feels as if it may affect our lives long-term.
As God is about being extravagantly generous with us, times of confusion, difficulty, or adversity can become great opportunities for God to show us more of what is possible; relying more on where God is leading us means stepping onto unfamiliar territory with accompanying uncertainty. Creating something new is God’s specialty, and God loves to work through people.
Working with God to move through a problem in a new, creative way takes faith, both in God and yourself. It takes practice. Paying attention for God’s activity and seeking guidance through prayer, meditation or personal counsel with a trusted advisor, still leaves one more step: taking action.
You and I can get right to that point and then back away in fear, whatever that fear means personally. Taking that next step may create an unfamiliar, somewhat uncomfortable result. This is the human experience. But moving through the fear, taking action with eyes fixed on God’s direction, means partnered work with God has helped build and expand God’s kingdom here on earth.
Please take note: Your discernment of and response to God’s active presence in the world does make a difference. You may not recognize what that difference is in the moment, but don’t be discouraged. Keep paying attention, asking questions, listening and seeking God’s guidance. Keep trusting this process of discernment and taking action to create new solutions to problems you may be facing. Use discernment when having conversations with people who get under your skin a little, and see what God has to offer as spiritual guidance and direction. Use discernment when you feel most alone and want help from God to guide you through it.
You may have read my last blog post about being stuck in an elevator for ninety minutes. Sitting on a box of books while God brought all kinds of help to get me through the situation, one perfect moment stood out for me that I haven’t shared until now. The books on which I sat were a portion of the journals I have filled over the years with working to discern God’s activity, seeking direction, determining to take action. That made me smile at the time, and it still does now.
Discernment takes time, it takes practice. And it takes using faith when common sense tells you not to. But the results do pay off in profoundly unexpected and powerful ways.
About the author
The Rev. Cory L. Kemp is founder and faith mentor with Broad Plains Faith Coaching. Cory, employing her signature Handcrafted Faith program, supports ordained and lay women leaders in visualizing, understanding and strengthening their beliefs, so that they may know, love and serve God and their communities with generosity, wisdom, and joy.