We've been talking a lot about discernment lately - a topic that tends to send chills down my spine. It makes me feel as if there's a "right" answer and the goal is for me to find it. If I find it, God will be happy, I will be happy, and life will go swimmingly. But if I make the wrong choice, God will be upset, I'll be depressed, and everything will fall apart. Even though I know this is not true, why do decisions feel so heavy?
In the book Sacred Rhythms, we are reminded that the goal of discernment is not the answer. The goal is to be brought closer to Christ. With the Spirit dwelling in us, we are able to make decisions according to His will. Rather than God being on the outside, making judgments about our choices, He resides within us. As we learn to listen to His voice and be attentive to our selfishness, we are able to make decisions and experience the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding (aka it doesn't always make sense! the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world). Thankfully, His peace isn't something external that He gives to us - it's His very presence.
As is the case with most of the Fellows program this year, our classes and discussions "happen" to be matching up perfectly with my difficulties and longings. Currently, I am in the process of deciding where I will attend graduate school for the next 2-6 years. I have narrowed it down to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I keep going back and forth for a variety of reasons, and like most big decisions, I have spent a lot of time thinking about every possible factor. I have spreadsheets and outlines and pro-con lists and values assessment calculations galore.
While these tools are helpful and logistics are a component of any decision, I need to chill out and focus on the flip side - resting in God and being attentive to the Spirit. I need to hold each option before the Lord and listen for His Spirit. When I think about going to Madison, what do I notice in my soul? Where do I find peace or unrest in that decision? What is at the root of those feelings? Is it my selfishness or insecurity? Or is it the Lord speaking to me about where he is calling me? What about UNC? Even as I write this, I know I haven't spent enough time with this decision before the Lord. Actually, writing this is making me excited to go home and do so this evening.
One other helpful tip from Sacred Rhythms is to begin with indifference. The first step in attaining wisdom is to become indifferent to anything but God's will. This is much easier said than done, but through prayer, I can honestly say that I feel indifferent about which school I end up at. Part of me wants to go to UNC because I am plugged into a community down here and the weather is fantastic, but part of me would also be excited to explore Madison and go on a rad adventure up north.
All in all, I'm excited to see where the Lord is taking me for the next few years. It's fun to think about life as an adventure - walking with God, making decisions, and living through His Spirit.