by Christine Sine
When I was a kid, my parents used to take me and my three brothers on long summer treks. We had a big Ford Falcon station wagon behind which we pulled a small caravan. It was so small in fact that we called it “the pimple”. However, it was perfect for the many adventurous trips we made across the dry and dusty roads of the Australian outback.
On one occasion, we were barreling along at a pretty good pace when we noticed someone standing in the middle of the road waving his hands. We pulled off beside him a little hesitantly as there were no other cars in sight and probably no one else would pass that way for another hour or two. “I’m not drunk and I’m not crazy”, he exclaimed, “but what way was I going?” He had pulled off at right angles to the road to have a stretch break and could not remember which direction he had come from. He had failed to take notice of the distinguishing features of this seemingly featureless plain that could help him move forward in the right direction.
Stop, Look, Listen.
I felt a bit like that this week and I know that many of you do too. We feel as though we have pulled off at right angles to the road of life and are not sure how to find direction. And how do we find direction when the landscape around us looks so unfamiliar that we don’t know where we are heading?
My initial response was to get busy and move ahead on one of the many ideas and projects swirling round in my brain. Then I felt God nudge me. Stop, look, listen, do some discernment before you move forward. So I have pulled out a new journal that I will use specifically for this time of discernment, and hunted for my two favourite books on discernment: Discernment by Henri Nouwen and The Way of Discernment by Elizabeth Liebert. They will, I know, provide wonderful guides over the next few weeks and I am excited by where this will lead.
I think that many of us are trying to discern what the future holds. There seems to be so much darkness in our world at the moment and many of us are finding it hard to see the path ahead. “We are always on a journey from darkness into light”, says John O’Donohue in Anam Cara, which reminds me that seeds germinate in darkness and I think that the darkness of these days is fertile ground for new seeds to emerge. That thought was reinforced this morning by a quote from Mo Thomas, “Never ever underestimate the raw power contained in a single seed of Christ’s love.”
Periodic times of introspection and discernment are good for our souls, and so I wait to see what seeds God is germinating in me. I thought that you might like to share in some of this discernment process with me and I plan to blog about it over the next few weeks.
Know Where You Are Coming From.
First, like that man by the side of the road, I realize that I need to know where I am coming from before I think about where I am heading to. We could not point him in the right direction without knowing where his journey began.
As well as the books I plan to read during this time, I will look back over my old journals and also reflect on two important questions I have framed:
Firstly, “What are the beliefs that give you a sense of stability and assurance as you look to the future?”
This question in particular has become an important focus over the last few days. I want to start with God’s overall purpose for me and for our world. “May the hallowing of God’s name echo through the universe”, that wonderful phrase from the New Zealand Moari Lord’s Prayer, has been echoing in my mind. My deepest desire is that all that I am and all that I do will contribute to the hallowing of God’s name until it echoes through the universe. This is the ground on which I want to build my future.
At this stage that means that each discernment session I hold will begin with the hallowing of God’s name and a drawing in of knowledge of the holiness of God.
My second question: “What are the unique gifts you bring to the world?” is one that I talked about with my life coach three years ago. It provided the foundation out of which I wrote The Gift of Wonder and has fueled my ongoing journey into the wonderment of God and of our world. I am excited about where it might take me in the future.
Last week, I posted this question on Facebook and added another, “How would you describe me and my ministry”? I have added all the responses to my journal and as I walk through the process outlined by Elizabeth Liebert in The Way of Discernment, I know that they will provide important insights.
What Helps You Find Direction?
I am not ashamed to admit that I need lots of help in a process like this. Not only have I pulled out my favourite books on discernment but I have also pulled out my favourite tools: my finger labyrinth – so good to use when I am struggling with a challenging question, and my doodling tools – not hard, as all that it requires is some blank paper and a few coloured pens.
My first doodle, photographed above, has stunned me with its clarity – the image that emerged shows a heart and a womb clearly, at least to me, a very appropriate place for my journey to begin. A place from which God’s love flows and a place in which God’s seeds germinate. That’s probably enough to keep me thinking for the rest of the year.
I am also recruiting a couple of “soul friends” to help me on the journey. There is no better person to help us move forward in the way that God wants us to than a close friend who knows where we are coming from and has no pretensions about where we might be able to go in the future.
So I begin and this quote from Henri Nouwen starts me on the journey:
Discernment is a discipline and practice that requires us to cultivate trust, love, faith, hope and courage. We cannot see with perfect clarity what lies ahead. And we cannot see the Holy Spirit within us. In fact, we have no tangible evidence that the Holy Spirit has made a home in us. Accepting and daring to put our trust in this possibility is a matter of faith…. To be born of the Spirit is to step into a freedom that we never imagined before. It is to trust that the Spirit knows us better than we know ourselves, and that we can therefore relinquish our smaller identities to become someone who is beyond our own understanding. We now accept that the mystery of God which once seemed outside and beyond us, has made a home within us. (Discernment)
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