Here’s another passage today from Henri Nouwen on the subject of spiritual discernment.
By dipping deeply into the well of our own lives, we can discern the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives. Careful discernment remains our lifelong task. I can see no other way for discernment than a life in the Spirit, a life of unceasing prayer and contemplation, a life of deep communion with the Spirit of God. Such a life will slowly develop in us an inner sensitivity, enabling us to distinguish between the law of the flesh and the law of the Spirit. We certainly will make constant errors and seldom have the purity of heart required to make the right decisions all the time. But when we continually try to live in the Spirit, we at least will be willing to confess our weakness and limitations in all humility, trusting in the one who is greater than our hearts.
At the same time, we practice our discernment not alone but in community.
The question is not simply, “Where does God lead me as an individual person who tries to do his will?” More basic and more significant is the question, “Where does God lead us as a people?” This question requires that we pay careful attention to God’s guidance in our life together, and that together we search for a creative response to the way we have heard God’s voice in our midst.
Likewise, spiritual discernment is based on a concrete and dynamic spirituality that demands constant, careful listening to the people of God, especially the poor. It does not allow for a fixed and definite theory that can be applied at all times and in all places. It requires great attentiveness to the continually new movements of the Spirit among the people of God. That in turn requires an ear that has been well trained by the scriptures and the church’s understanding of those scriptures. A constant dialogue is necessary between the “old knowing” of scripture and tradition and the “new knowing” of the concrete, daily life experiences of the people of God.
• Henri Nouwen
Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life, pp. 170-171