Descretio: Discernment and Discretion
Jesus asks me if I am a Christian or if I am Christianish. To be a Christian is to follow Jesus and to use Jesus’ life as a model for mine. Sometimes I find this really annoying because I often just want to go off and do my now thing and then, on Sundays, appear Christian. But to be a real Christian is not to believe in a certain way or recite prayers or creeds correctly. Jesus says we are his friends if we follow his commandments. This is a problem because I would rather just wear a cross and then do precisely what I want. A big cross. A lot of what I want.
I like my upper-middle-class lifestyle, and I really do not want Jesus messing with it. I don’t mind hearing a sermon. It’s only 12 minutes a week. But listening to God in prayer? Well, what if God says something I don’t like? What if God tells me that poverty in Africa I something I need to fix because I am part of the system which steals global resources? What if God says I won a genetic lottery and should share? What if God says he loves that homeless guy exactly as much as He loves me? What if God has an opinion different form my life-goal of being rich and comfortable on the planet? What if what I consider to be philanthropy, God considered to be offensive – a tip? And a small one at that.
Discernment is at the core of being a Christian but “discernment” (listening for God’s longing for me and for what choices I make) is over-functioning if I am just Christianish. Do I care what God thinks? Or am I just a modern Deist who considers God to be busy, dozing somewhere far and away? (Which suits me if I like control!)
No. I am a Christian. Not always a great one. But I try. So discernment will be a part of my life. Discernment and discretion are two parts of a whole. Discernment means listening for God’s hopes for my choice-making and trying to find the crumb-trail to them in a loud world. Discretion is an internal quiet in which I can see when it is time not to speak, or not to act. Jesus discerns when He knows the point at which to go to Jerusalem. Jesus exercises discretion when he writes in the sand rather than answer the stoners’ questions. I want to know what God wants of me even though I know it may require me to do things, and not do things, I do not want,and want to do.
So, I will spend time praying in silence, listening, even when it seems nothing much is being accomplished. And I will submit to spiritual direction and counseling so that I am ministering from a well, aware, healthy place. And I will, to the best of my ability, hand God the leash of my heart even when it means being led where I would rather not go.
I am a Christian. On my better days. And I will try hard to hear God’s still, small voice which usually says little more than that He loves me, passionately. And that I have done enough. And that I should rest. And have a cookie. And be kind. So I will listen because that is what Christians do. We listen and we respond to a God who chose “word” as the means by which to be in relationship and reveal God’s self. And I will always, always look out for God’s showing up in the people around me who kindly, tell me the truth. And I will try to discern aware that my shy, vulnerable God is trying to speak.