The quest for discernment

1. the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure: skill in discerning;
2. an act of perceiving or discerning something.

My work leads me to meet a variety of people. That’s the part of it that I love, the meeting new people and sharing their stories. It’s sometimes the hardest part, being able to capture their personality, their presence and write about it in a way that gives others a glimpse into who they are.

One of the people I’ve met is an educator — a headmaster at a local private school. I’ve spoken with her many times in my four, almost five years. Conversations with her always inspire me in my faith.

She’s retiring soon and I sat down with her to do the standard outgoing interview that I always do. This was about a month ago, and she spoke about something that’s stuck with me ever since — discernment. For her, it was discernment in her job. 

I suspect she applies God’s discernment in all aspects of her life, but we were talking about her job.

She told me that she had always prayed for His discernment to not stay a longer than He wanted or leave a day earlier than He wanted.

I thought about that the rest of the day, the week, and beyond. Here it is, about a month later, and I’m still thinking about it. It doesn’t just apply to your job, but to your life. How many of us hold on to things — jobs, relationships, dreams, stresses — that, if we simply asked for God’s discernment, might realize He’s leading us to move on?

If we stopped holding on to that thing that God wants us to let go of, what would He bring to our lives in return?

I think, in my case, sometimes it’s fear that keeps me holding tightly to those things. I’m scared because I’m afraid of what God will ask me to do. I mean, what if He wants me to leave my job and step out on faith that’d he’d provide us another one? What if He wants me to go be a missionary in some foreign land? What if He asks us to become foster parents? What if he asks me to go befriend to my neighbors?!

It’s easier, sometimes, to hold on to those things. Because it’s safe. It’s safe to stay in that job, that relationship, that bubble of security. We don’t have to worry about someone rejecting us if we never take a chance to meet them. We don’t have to worry about failing if we never try.

But like Jonah, if we don’t follow God, we end up in a whale of trouble. Maybe not a literal whale, as in his case, but a whale of our own. We might miss a fantastic new friend. We might miss the best job we ever had. We might miss a chance to make a real difference for God in the life of someone else.

“A man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” —Proverbs 16:9

God doesn’t let us stay comfortable if it’s somewhere He doesn’t want us to be. He sends the clues to let us know when it’s time.

But we need His help, His discernment, to know it’s time.

What are you holding on to? What’s keeping you from following the path that God wants for you?

"Blessings" by Laura Story has been one of my favorite songs lately. It's good for reminding me that what I think is a rough time is sometimes just a way that God is drawing us closer to Him. "Open Hands" by Laura Story, featuring Mac Powell, is another good one about having faith and trusting God.


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