So my awesome wife asked a great question in response to yesterday's post on Listening to God. She said:
This all sounds wonderful, but I've gotta be honest. I'm not real clear on exactly what mean by the "process of spiritual discernment". I think spiritual discernment must mean that we're trying to decide if that little voice in our head is actually the Holy Spirit talking to us or not...and if it is how and when we should go about doing (or not doing) whatever it is that it is saying. But what's the process? What's involved? Is there a list of steps? What would it look like -- other than involving some confession in the midst of our faith community/church? You've recently asked me to enter into this process with you on several things, and I've realized that I need some clarification...
Thanks for your honesty and willingness to ask for clarification. We come from a long line of people who make decisions basically one way: we weigh the options and choose what seems to be the most rational choice (though often its more about emotions and desires than we want to admit). We do a cost/benefit analysis and go with what is either the least risky or has the highest possible return on our investment. This process for decision is based on our knowledge, wisdom, skills, analysis, etc.
Spiritual discernment on the other hand, doesn't necessarily reject logic or reason, but our ability is not the primary factor. Your impulse is right, it is about prayer, listening to "the little voice in our head," confessing and confiding in one another. Its about listening. The process of discernment isn't entirely unlike the listening process we engage in for Lectio. We pray together and we wait in expectation for God to answer. Those things which we believe we are "hearing" are put before the community.
The specific "process," I think is determined by the situation - who's involved, what is being decided, what time frame you have to work with, etc. It may well involve a period of Bible study, seeking counsel from Godly teachers, or any number of rational/logical methods.
However it will always involve and center around intentional prayer and time to wait and listen for a response together. It needs to be open to taking direction from these times of prayer and not merely rubber-stamping what you already decided you want to do.
I think the most obvious reason that people shy away from "spiritual discernment" is precisely because it is so hard to pin down, define, carefully program and measure. We like things which are able to be quantified and studied empirically...that is difficult in this sort of process.
There is so much room for error because we are utterly dependent on the Spirit and our ability/willingness to receive the Spirit's guidance.
I hope this was somewhat helpful rather than simply adding more confusion! I'm still learning also - perhaps someone else can add their wisdom to what this process looks like?