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Godly Decision Making

We must understand the dynamics of discernment

In addition to paying attention to that which is conscious, discernment calls us to pay attention to any unconscious matter that comes up as well. It could be truth that slips out in honest conversation (before we have a chance to edit ourselves!) or that presents itself to us in dreams.

One of the things that always strikes me about the Christmas story is the prominence of the role of dreams. God was very active in communicating through dreams—with Joseph in particular. And Joseph was obedient in responding. If Joseph had ignored his dreams as unworthy of consideration, or if he had willfully refused to obey what he heard in those dreams, the Christmas story would have unfolded very differently.

There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that God has given up on speaking to us in dreams. In fact, in my work as a spiritual director I often encourage people to pay attention to their dreams because when we are asleep we are less ego-defended and more able to receive a prompting from God that is beyond what our cognitive faculties can accept. Of course the content of dreams and how we interpret them is still subject to other aspects of a disciplined discernment process, but they are worth paying attention to nonetheless.

All this to say, the will of God is manifest deep within, where the Spirit dwells and bears witness with our spirit about things that are true (Romans 8:16). A profound life orientation is revealed in our deepest desires and consolations, when we are able to get in touch with them. These usually have something to do with our calling—the very purpose for which God created us. This is a passion or a burden that is uniquely ours and cannot be set aside without doing damage to ourselves and to our relationship with the One who has called us. This is true for churches and ministries as well. Discerning leaders stay in touch with the calling and charisms of the community they are leading, learning to be humbly confident in making decisions consistent with who God has called them to be—as individuals and as a group.

Seek spiritual direction and greater discernment of spirits. Spiritual direction is a key component to a lifestyle of discernment for leaders. It is tempting to think that once we have done a little reading on discernment and once we have practiced a bit, we don't need any help with discernment, but this is just not true. In fact, there is an even greater need for spiritual direction as we progress in the spiritual life.

July24, 2012 at 8:38 AM

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