Ministry Musings: Discernment Is…(3)

Discernment is a repository of life experience.

We make a mistake if we think we have to treat discernment as if it is something required in each new situation.  On the contrary, we already know how to live in many specific circumstances because we have already learned how to do it in the past.

We don’t have to pray for discernment regarding whether or not to be honest in a given moment.  That’s a given.  We may have to pray to know “how” to communicate honesty, but we don’t have to ask God whether or not we should be honest.

Again, the point is that much discernment is already stored away in the life lessons we have accumulated.  That’s one reason why Parker Palmer has exhorted us to “take your life seriously.”  It is a treasure-house filled with inspiration, insight, and instruction.

When I put Scripture, Tradition, and life experience together, I think of Legos—those little colored blocks that have amazed and engaged children for years.  Our children loved to play with them.

But they did not have to make the blocks each time they wanted to play.  The challenge (and opportunity) was to arrange the existing blocks differently, and thereby make new toys out of existing pieces.

Discernment is like that.  So many pieces already exist.  The challenge (and opportunity) is to arrange them into new expressions as life moves ahead.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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