More on Foundational Experiences

Sun peeking through.

I mentioned that I’d be writing a short series on discernment for the duration of this week, but we’ve gotten to the end of the week and I’m realizing there are a few more thoughts I’d like us to consider together on this subject. So I’ve decided to extend the discernment series a bit longer into next week. I hope that’s okay with you! 

Accordingly, today I’d like to revisit the ideas shared yesterday about our foundational experiences of God

I realized after writing that post that in asking you to consider your foundational experiences of God, those experiences may not have been positive. Perhaps you came into the faith without realizing fully what that meant. Perhaps you were raised in a church or a home where your understanding of faith was twisted into a pretzel and all that resulted was fear and confusion and pain. 

What we might term “foundational experiences of God” may be foundational indeed — but they may have done more harm than good, and now we’re left to pick up the pieces.

So today I’d like to invite you to consider your foundational experiences of God in a slightly different, more focused light. 

Let’s recall those moments in life when you just knew it was God. Perhaps it was a moment when the truth you’d learned about God’s love or truth or forgiveness or grace somehow clicked and became real for you, not just head knowledge anymore. Or perhaps it was a moment when you knew God intervened in circumstances because there was just no other possible explanation. Or perhaps it was as simple as a felt presence surrounding you or following you around or showing up at occasionally odd moments, and you just knew it was God somehow.

These are foundational experiences of God, too. They’re the foundational experiences of God that teach us, truly, who God is to us — how he intervenes in our lives and relates himself to us. 

This is the kind of foundational experience Jesus had in those baptismal waters when he heard that voice from heaven speaking his beloved sonship over him. He knew it was God. He knew it was truth. It was not twisted or confused in any way.

So, what about you?

What are those foundational experiences of God in your own life? What do they, upon considering them, speak to you about God? How did he relate himself to you in those moments? What did he communicate about himself to you? 

What Are Your Foundational Experiences of God?

Celtic cross of peace.

Three years ago, when I had just begun my training as a spiritual director, I attended an instructional retreat weekend that had the topic of discernment as its central focus.

On the very first evening of that retreat, we watched a short clip from Mary Ann Scofield, one of the founders of Spiritual Directors International, talking about our foundational experiences of God and how they can serve as touchstones in our ongoing lives of faith. And this past weekend, as I attended a similar retreat weekend on that same topic, we revisited this idea of foundational experiences of God and how they can serve us in our discernment processes. 

Consider the baptism experience of Jesus in Matthew 3.

Jesus comes up from the water, and a dove descends from the clouds as a voice from heaven says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” This was a declarative moment in the life of Jesus — a moment that confirmed his identity not only as the Son of God, but also as one who is beloved. 

We see Jesus move from the bapstimal encounter into the wilderness, where he is tested by the devil at that very point of his identity. Three times, the devil tempts Jesus by saying, “If you really are the Son of God, do this … or this … or this.” He is testing the very meaning of what it means for Jesus to really be the Son of God, and Jesus must go back to that foundational encounter and remember. Reconnecting with his true identity that he received directly from God in that baptismal encounter allows him to respond to each temptation.

What about you? 

What foundational experiences of God have formed your life? What did those foundational experiences teach you about God and yourself? How might returning to those foundational moments serve you in your own process of discernment? 

Are You a Thinker or a Feeler, and Other Helpful Considerations


Yesterday we began a small series on the topic of discernment. Through each of the daily posts this week, we are going to consider how we practice the art of discernment in our lives and what we can learn about our process of discernment to help us in future moments of decision in our lives. 

In yesterday’s post, I asked you to look back upon your life to see if there has been a pattern or process to your decision-making. Today, I’m going to take that a step deeper and ask you to consider aspects of your personhood and how those have historically played into your decision-making process — or how they might help you in the future. 

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, you know that it carries four categories of indication for each person’s make-up. 

  • Introvert or Extrovert
  • Senser or Intuitive
  • Thinker or Feeler
  • Perceiver or Judger

There are loads of resources that you can find to explain each of these type indicators and to help you determine which indicators are your dominant preference. But today, I want to consider how these personality type indicators can become helpful to our process of discernment. 

Let’s take, for example, the difference between a thinker and a feeler.

For someone who is a thinker, charting out a pro-and-con list for a particular decision-point can prove immensely clarifying and helpful. A thinker will also be helped along in their decision by conducting research or appealing to those with knowledge and/or experience related to the decision-point they are considering.

Someone who is a feeler, on the other hand, might find themselves better served by noticing the emotive affect a particular decision casts upon them when they hold it inside themselves. They may also be helped by paying attention to the physical responses of their bodies when weighing one decision over another. 

By way of another example, consider introversion and extroversion.

These categories speak to how each of us gains or loses energy. An introvert becomes weary from too much external stimulation and becomes energized and filled up through “down times” of solitude — times that allow them to think, reflect, and rest in the quiet. An extrovert finds that solitary, quiet activity a bit draining, however, and becomes much more energized when around other people.

Which type are you, and how might that truth of yourself shed light on the best decision you are seeking to make? Has your personality preference type served you to discern a decision you needed to make in the past? 

How Do You Discern?

Candle and stones.

I was at a retreat this past weekend with the community of people from whom I received my spiritual direction training over the last three years. Each November, they host an instructional retreat weekend, and this weekend’s theme was the topic of discernment

How do you discern the movement and invitation of God in your life? 

This was the question at the heart of the retreat weekend, and I thought I would use some of the reflections I gained from the weekend as the basis of this week’s postings. 

To open the conversation on discernment this week, then, I’d like to invite you to consider your usual path for discerning the way forward at critical decision-points in your life. 

How do you go about making decisions in your life? How do you know which path you ought to take? What has been your typical process? Do you have a typical process?