We are all called to be winnowers… to cast aloft our dreams and thoughts, to winnow with the Spirit. Discernment, like winnowing, is a gift which enables us to sift the motives of our heart; to raise up our inner most thoughts and find the wisdom of our way.
Ernest Larkin helps us appreciate it. He says:
“Discernment has two focuses: process and problem.
It is a process insofar as it is progressive awareness of the movements of the spirits in our counsciousness. …
The “spirits” are thoughts, desires, and affective moods, which are the telltale signs of the Holy Spirit or opposing influences. …
Discernment is mindfulness, recollection, centredness. It is being aware of what is going on spiritually.”
In this season of Lent, in the Christian tradition, we are called to look inward and examine our hearts and practices, in the light of God’s word. It is a particular time in which we turn our attention to the questions of our heart and let ourselves explores some shadows.
In the silence of our hearts we may let some of the bigger questions arise … What is the best I can do at this time?
Can I explore more deeply choices available to me and be open to new directions or possibilities?
Larkin continues in a very practical way, noting process and problem work together:
“Discernment as problem solving is interpreting the spirits in order to determine God’s will. Where are these feelings and sentiments tending?
Are they moving the person toward or away from God?
What behaviour and choices are they suggesting?
Discernment is concerned … with the trajectory or orientation. Where are they pointing?
We are called to live beyond rote rules and in accord with God’s particular will for us.
God’s project for me is that I become the unique person I was created to be. Discernment is the tool for the process.” *
It takes courage and support to look at our shadows, to explore our choices and to choose growth. A spiritual director or Christian companion is invaluable in being there for you to carry your thoughts and dreams through the process of discernment.
Quoted extracts from “What to Know about Discernment” by Ernest E. Larkin. O. Carm
Published in Review for Religious, 2001. pp.162-3. Published Society of Jesus St. Louis. Missouri. US Central and Sth Province. Archives can be accessed . through http://cdm.slu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/rfr/id/559
Recommended Reading: “Silent Presence”, Ernest Larkin. Dimension Books. N Jersey. 2000.