Thursday, January 8, 2009

Discernment: Learning to Love

Many times I've heard people say something like this regardig discerning their calling to ministry:



Oh, I didn't want to do it, but God kept at me. God was pulling me along, but I didn’t want to go, I really didn’t, but God just kept bugging me and wouldn't let me alone.

I think we need to be very careful about this kind of thinking. God is found in our resistence, too. Yes, we must learn to trust God, but we must learn to trust ourselves, too.

Discernment is not really about making a decision or solving a problem. Discernment is living a life that moves toward authenticity. It's all about learning to love ourselves~the true self, that is. It's a process of developing self awareness such that we can finally see how our deepest desire is also God's desire for us. God's will for us does not differ from our own deepest desire. And I believe that our deepest desires always come down to Love.

Most every advance in discernment carries with it a cost, the cross of self-knowledge. As we learn who we truly are, so much of who we thought we were must die, and that is often quite painful. Developing self-awareness is a waking up process, a birthing process, a movement from what is small and dark and prison-like to that which is terrifyingly enormous, vibrantly light, and freeing.

To discern we must identify the obstacles to the Image of God within us, and then take action to remove them so that we can increasingly become the authentic beings that God created. It's the imago Dei that truly knows, actually sees.

I think we can liken the process of removing the obstacles to the imago Dei within us to learning to love. Love and fear cannot stand together. Love casts out our fears and anxieties so that we can be transformed and ever more receptive to love. The more we’re receptive, the more we can change. It is in being LOVED (not loving, although that's a natural consequence of allowing ourselves to be loved) that the imago Dei is clarified, enlivened, and empowered. We are desirable because we were created by desire, God's perfect desire.

It's difficult, allowing ourselves to be completely loved. It's both passive and active--we simply allow it, we let go, surrender to this great power of love. But there's also some active discernment necessary, some real agency involved in this surrender. In my experience it doesn't just happen~we must work at it, practice listening and being receptive and trusting. Oh my. It's not easy.

And ALL this transformation is for the sole purpose of LOVE – to LOVE the world.

Just some thoughts this Thursday night.

flickr image, "inner light"

9 comments:

INTPanentheist said...

I've never liked that kind of expression yet, either - honestly, in my life, when I've felt that I was pulled to something, I didn't have a choice. It's not that it was chipped at; it just abruptly was the only option (i.e. coming back to Texas).

If you have that kind of visceral reaction to something, I question why it is that one would uncritically assume that it is wrong.

Also, I have found that sometimes, in the process of coming to love, or be loved, in whatever fashion, there's a lot of invisble bile you may have to clean out of your system. Maybe that's unique to my current situation, but I've found it to be the case before - you can have a lot of poison that has to be worked through before you can truly appreciate the entirety of such a gift.

steve said...

Such a wonderful reflection! Thank you, Katherine. The only thought I would add is that fear, per-se, is not the enemy. Indeed, I think that learning to form a friendly, non-judgmental relationship with our fear is an important step in becoming more authentic, in growing in love.

Thanks again! Peace to you

Jennifer said...

Just some profound thoughts. Thank you!

I've often thought that "God made me do it" sounds an awful lot like its counterpart...and both lack authenticity, personal responsibility and self-confidence.

Jan said...

Somehow "God made me do it" sounds like that cop-out "The Devil made me do it." I don't like either. Your reflections on LOVE remind me of much of what I heard at the NM Conference Richard Rohr held.

Gannet Girl said...

This is such a beautiful post.

Rev SS said...

Profound thoughts, beautifully articulated. Thank you!

Purple said...

Really like the desire section. In my spiritual direction program we worked quite a bit with acknowledging our own desires as an authentic path to living our lives in God.

C. said...

Sha-zamm, Katherine, this is a keeper for me. You have such a way of describing the indescribable. I need to read it again and again this week! Someone dear to me who has been stuck for some time has responded to discernment. Fear had been her obstacle. Tonight, to my surprise she announced with vibrancy in her voice that she's planning a trip to London, a long-time dream of hers. I see inner awakening here. I see her spirit daring to live her dream . . . daring to live into her true self. Thanks again for sharing yourself! CCW

Paula said...

I've been working to understand a call of sorts for some time; its been a slow gestation of learning what I'm meant to be and do with this life. It's exciting and crazy to feel called to serve and its been a long time in realizing that I should not let the voices of others (including my own ego) stifle the realization of fulfilling a promise. Thank you for posting this, I know I will return again to read it.
Paula