Why Community Matters in Discernment

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One of my most favorite things about our life with God is the process of discernment.

When we’re in those threshold places in our lives, where we’re trying to see our way forward to the next step or simply trying to understand better the step we’re on, I love the process of laying out all the variables and looking at the way God has previously worked in our lives and how God has uniquely made us in order to help gain clarity about the present moment.

It’s seriously the best.

And this past week, I’ve been reminded of the importance of community in that process of discernment.

When I told Kirk about the really intense prayer experience I had a week ago Thursday, which I shared with you in last week’s letter, he didn’t feel any resonance with the idea that what I thought I heard was indeed God’s voice. It just didn’t feel true to him.

He reminded me of a time he’d had recently where he thought he heard God telling him something hard and very similar to what I’d heard (but concerning a different circumstance) and how several people close to him and the situation — myself, his sister, and his best friend — all confirmed they believed it to be true, too. And the way it worked out, it was.

“It’s important to discern in community,” he reminded me in the aftermath of this prayer experience I thought I’d had. And he encouraged me to share what happened with a few other trusted people in my life.

So this past Wednesday evening, I shared what happened with my therapist, Debbie. She’s a woman deeply spiritual and grounded, who knows God and knows me and is always willing to tell me the truth.

She wasn’t so sure it was God’s voice either.

“Look at the fruit,” she said. I’d been unable to talk to God ever since it happened. I felt afraid and confused. I could feel myself putting up walls, growing cold in love, and tempted toward distance. I felt completely unable to enter back into the experience of what had happened, as though my spirit just wouldn’t let me go back there.

It reminded me of other times I’ve had to discern whether something I was going through was from God or some other source and how Elaine, my spiritual director, has helped me discern by reminding me of the heart she’s learned that I have before God.

“You want to follow him,” she’s told me in some of those tough places. “You want to give him what he asks of you. I’ve seen you give him hard things before, in a willingness to surrender. If your spirit is fighting this, you might consider if it’s really God asking it of you.”

It’s one thing to fight what God asks because our flesh wants something else and we’re warring to surrender. It’s another thing to discern if what you thought you heard was really God.

I’m still feeling pretty unsettled by what happened a week ago Thursday. I still have a lot of questions. But I’ve begun to consider that it may not have been God I heard. It may have been just a mimic of his voice.

And that’s where I feel thankful for community — for people who can help me test the spirits and discern.

Is there anything you’re in a process of discerning right now? Do you have people who are helping you listen?

Much love,