Ministry Musings: The Way of the Heart

There are multiple images that will help us to understand and experience discernment.  My favorite is the phrase “the way of the heart.”  I was introduced to this phrase by Henri Nouwen in his book by the same title.  I was through his writing that I discovered the historic, biblical significance of this phrase.

“The way of the heart” is a larger concept than the topic of discernment.  But two things immediately emerge from it which have a direct bearing on our exploration of discernment.

First, discernment is a “way.”  Discernment is not something to “get”—in fact, it is not a “thing” at all.  Discernment is not asking God to create a will for us and then show it to us; it is entering into a will that already exists.  Discernment is the acknowledgement that our lives are not meaningless, followed by the abandonment to God that allows that meaning to unfold.  It is a never-ending attitude accompanied by certain actions (that we’ll explore later) which enable us to step into a stream that’s already flowing.

Second, discernment is a way “of the heart.”  It is enacting the desire to live life from the Center, so that all the points (dimensions of our lives) on the circumference will be ordered in reference to God.  Discernment is seeking to walk in response to revelation.  It is the belief that an “Other” is speaking and our task is to listen well.

We want to do this at the very core of our being, so that no stones are left unturned.  Discernment is not something reserved so we can know how to reach the “mountain tops” with God, but so that we can discover how to “walk the paths” which are not evaluated in relation to their height.

Discernment is ceasing to look at life in terms of “significance” or “insignificance,” and coming to view all of life as holy.


About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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2 Responses to Ministry Musings: The Way of the Heart

  1. “First, discernment is a “way.” Discernment is not something to “get”—in fact, it is not a “thing” at all.”

    For me, and maybe for others, it is taking time to re-learn this. Somewhere in the past, discernment was taught as something to “get” and therefore as a “thing”. Yet, over the past couple of years, I have been learning differently and more deeply about discernment. This expression, “the way of the heart” definitely resonates.

    I look forward to continuing this journey of learning.


  2. Bonnie Beuning says:

    Thank you for sharing wth us at Academy 32 in July–it was great!
    God’s “stream that’s already flowing,” is such a lovely image for His will. We so often come to water’s edge and hesitate rather than trust in its purity. I think at times we fear the current…knowing it may carry us into eddies and through rapids before we reach the still waters.

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