Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Discern Before Deciding

IHM Motherhouse and Conference Center, Monroe

I'm now reading, devotionally, I (Still) Believe: Leading Bible Scholars Share Their Stories of Faith and Scholarship. I am really liking this book. The first two testimonies were written by Richard Bauckham and Walter Brueggeman.  To come are James Dunn, Gordon Fee, John Goldingay, Phyllis Trible, and several others.

This morning I'm reading Old Testament scholar Ellen F. Davis's story. Underlying her scholarship is a deep prayer life. She writes of being guided by God in "a regimen of meditative prayer and spiritual counsel...  I found myself simply trusting that process and following through in obedience. It was my first conscious experience of participating in such a process of shared, prayerful discernment." (44)

Engagement in this spiritual discipline convinced Davis that "our modern Western culture places excessive emphasis on the value of individual decision-making. What we think of as the normal steps by which decision-making proceeds — identifying goals, evaluating options, weighing pros and cons, then “deciding for oneself” — is not the only or the best way to make a sound choice. It may be better to submit in trust to the process of guided prayer, under the direction of someone who is deeply experienced in that work." (44-45)

Submission to the process, to the movements of God's Spirit as guided by God and not the self, has been central to all of Davis's life's direction. She writes:

"In short, on this and several other occasions I have been led in discernment to make a professional decision I had not expected to make. I trusted that it was the right choice, but in each case it remained unclear to me for some time afterwards why that was so. When the reason or reasons finally did become clear, it always involved factors I could not possibly have foreseen and considered in my own decision-making process." (45)

The first order of business in the life of a Jesus-follower is to place oneself in God's presence, as a discipline which turns into habitual way-of-being. That's where the God-process happens and discernment comes. 

Discern before deciding.