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Discernment as a Way of Life

We don’t make decisions in a vacuum

God's will for us is generally to do more of that which gives us life (Deuteronomy 30:11-20; John 10:10) and to turn away from those things that drain life from us. Furthermore, God points out that the wisdom that enables us to choose life is not something we will find outside of ourselves—in heaven or across the ocean—but that this knowing is very near to us; it is in our mouths and in our hearts for us to notice and observe (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

In the New Testament Jesus says, "I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly" (John 10:10 ESV). Many of our smaller decisions and most of our significant decisions—even decisions that require us to choose between two equally good options—involve the ability to notice what brings a sense of life, freedom in the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17), the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7).

These inner dynamics need not be attached to anything that is particularly momentous; in fact, they might seem relatively inconsequential until we learn to pay attention and trust what they have to tell us. That slight tension headache we get as we interact with a particular person or the aspect of our job that is inordinately draining, the life-giving energy we feel in the presence of art and beauty, the sensation of being "in the flow" when we are engaged in a particular activity, the feeling of peace we notice as we walk into a particular building or space—these are experiences of "life" and "death" that we can be attentive to and receive guidance from.

The opportunity to choose life is ours—in the day-to-day choices we face as well as in the larger decisions of our lives. This opportunity is there for us in our personal decisions and in the leadership decisions that affect many others. When we make it our habit to notice and respond to that which is life giving, we are in touch with what is truest about God, ourselves, and our world. Then, when we are called upon to make larger decisions—even in the leadership setting—we can draw upon all of the understanding and awareness we are gaining to inform our decision.

Taken from Pursuing God's Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups by Ruth Haley Barton. Copyright 2012 by Ruth Haley Barton. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.

June28, 2012 at 1:53 PM

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