One of my favorite songs is Lauren Daigle’s song “First.” She sings beautifully about her desire to seek God above everything else. This desire to seek God, to hear him, to feel him, and to know him is unworldly. Many people today, even those who believe in God, are much more concerned with achieving personal goals, acquiring material possessions, indulging physical desires, being entertained, or even gaining power over other people.
At this point in my life, I am also seeking to know God more deeply. I am seeking because I want to know God’s will for me. I seek God because I want to make sense of a world that seems to get crazier and more wicked by the minute. I want to know my true calling. One of the ways I seek God is through spiritual reflection – reading the Bible and seeking the deeper meaning of the words or reading books by others who have also sought to know God more fully.
Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest, professor, and author of Discernment, described discernment as the ability to distinguish between truth and lies, between good and bad guidance, and between the Holy Spirit and evil spirits. Discernment is also a form of spiritual perception: seeing, knowing, and being known by God. Discernment is seeing through to the deeper meaning because the most interesting things are not visible to our senses.
Spiritual perception requires making yourself vulnerable to God. You can’t see yourself as truthfully and authentically as God does unless you open yourself up to God’s guidance, exposing the things that you don’t want to admit about yourself. It means baring your innermost thoughts and inviting God to search and try you just as King David did when he asked God to know his heart and his thoughts and to reveal any offensive way in his inner being (Psalm 139:23-24).
In confessing my sins, I tend to confess things like anger, impatience, a tendency to judge other people or to compare myself to others, and lately, my lack of courage. I know these things about me. What areas do I not want God to investigate? My selfishness? My willingness to let go of things that are important to me, like financial security?
Nouwen said that he thinks the greatest temptation in life and the greatest enemy of the spiritual life is self-rejection – the fear of not being enough, of not being lovable. If you reject yourself, you expect other people to push you aside. You expect to be ignored or rejected. When we reject ourselves in this way, we contradict God’s voice telling us that we are loved. This is something I have recognized in myself.
Questions for study:
- Where do I go to find refuge against darkness and confusion?
- What inner voices have been part of my life?
- What persistent challenges have kept me in need of discernment? Have these challenges allowed me to assist others?
- In what ways have I not grown, even as I pray and study and learn from others?
Real theological reflection is thinking with the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16); it is reflecting on the painful and joyful realities of each day with the mind of Jesus, thereby raising human consciousness to the knowledge of God’s gentle guidance.
Henry Nouwen, Discernment