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Godly Decision Making

We must understand the dynamics of discernment

When we know we are not indifferent and cannot accomplish indifference for ourselves, the prayer for indifference may take us into a period of waiting. All we can say to God is, "I know I am not indifferent. I know that part of me still clings to my own agenda. If I am to become indifferent, you will have to do it in me." This period of waiting may feel very dark. But strangely enough, it will also feel deeply right—like we are right where we need to be.

The prayer for wisdom. The movement toward indifference is the threshold between two worlds—the world of human decision making and the spiritual practice of discerning the divine will. In this waiting room of the soul we are made ready to pray the second prayer—the prayer for wisdom: "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you" (James 1:5). Since we have died to our need to be wise in others' eyes or to prove ourselves according to human standards, we are finally ready to ask for God's wisdom and receive it.

It is crucial that those of us who want to become more discerning learn to grapple with this part of the process—to be able to recognize places of unfreedom where we are inordinately attached to a particular outcome rather than being indifferent to anything but the will of God. This is mature spirituality, and we will not be able to lead from this place of self-awareness and openness to God in a leadership setting if we have not practiced in our personal lives.

Notice without judging. Another dynamic of discernment is the ability to notice everything pertinent to the situation—both external and internal—without judging, at least at first. Most of us are accustomed to observing the obvious as we make decisions—circumstances, the clear meaning of pertinent Scriptures, the advice of wise Christian friends and the wisdom contained in our faith tradition. These form the basic framework for our Christian living, and it is assumed that we are making decisions within this framework, especially at the leadership level. That is discernment 101.

The more complex the decisions facing us, the more we must move beyond the basics of discernment to considering inner dynamics, which are harder to notice and interpret. We learn to listen to the stirrings of desire, to distinguish our true, God-given desires and calling from externally imposed "oughts" and "shoulds" and the compulsions of the false self. We are willing to pay attention and give credence to consolation and desolation. These dynamics are much more subtle, yet they give us clues as to what choices will nurture the life of Christ lived in and through our most authentic selves.

July24, 2012 at 8:38 AM

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