I am working on a new project about spiritual discernment and one of the books I’m reading is the third book in a trilogy by Henri Nouwen, compiled and edited from original materials found in the Henri J. M. Nouwen Archives at the University of Toronto.
I thought this passage from one of the introductory chapters was worthy of our consideration and discussion today.
For Henri Nouwen, spiritual discernment is hearing a deeper sound beneath the noise of ordinary life and seeing through appearances to the interconnectedness of all things, to gain a vision of how things hang together (theory physike) in our lives and in the world. Biblically, discernment is spiritual understanding and experiential knowledge, acquired through disciplined spiritual practice, of how God is active in our lives, which leads to a life “worthy of our calling” (Col. 1:9). It is a spiritual gift and practice that “ascertains and affirms the unique way God’s love and direction are manifested in our lives, so that we can know God’s will and fulfill our calling and mission within the mysterious interworkings of God’s love.”
But, as all who attempt to live the questions and follow the movements of the Spirit know, discernment is not a step-by-step program or a systematic pattern. Rather, it is a regular discipline of listening to the still, small voice beneath the rush of the whirlwind, a prayerful practice of reading the subtle signs in daily life. Discernment is not once-and-for-all decision making at critical points in one’s life (Should I take this job? Whom should I marry? Where should I live and work?), but a lifelong commitment to “remember God” (memoria Dei), know who you are, and pay close attention to what the Spirit is saying today.
Photo by Hugh Mothersole at Flickr. Creative Commons License