The practice of discernment
By Lt(N) the Rev’d Robert Parker,
Interim Senior Fleet Chaplain
Looking at the Liturgical calendar, we are in the middle of the season of Epiphany, heading toward Lent. Christmas Leave is a distant memory, New Years has been ushered in and the kids have been back to school for over a month. Winter has gripped us in its icy fingers and one can only dream of the warm touch of the sun. It is a time of transition and a time of renewal, as we hunker down to ride out the snow and cold.
It can be a time when people often take a moment and look ahead to the future and wonder what the next few months or even years will bring. Thinking about what you might want to do with your life can be a part of that reflection. Thinking about what you will become, whom you will meet, and where you might go are all apart of something called discernment.
As an Anglican priest, I am actively engaged in the practice of discernment as apart of my prayer life. Trying to feel the movement of God’s Holy Spirit in my life is something that I do to cultivate a life worthy of Christ’s sacrifice. I can not remember where I have heard this saying, and I have used it often, but we are to be the hands, feet and face of Jesus in our communities and to those around us. It starts with discerning God’s call for you. In the very same way that you tried to figure out what you wanted to do when you grew up, is what we are all called to do when we make Christ the centre of our lives.
It starts with your decision to be a follower of Christ, but that is only the start. Once you have made that choice, you need to move forward, to grow in faith, and to experience the love of God. If you want to move forward in faith, you must be willing to figure out what you are going to do when you become a grown up Christian? How is your faith going to be made manifest in what you do and how you live your life? How will you show others what it means to be the hands, feet and face of Jesus to the rest of the world? How will people see the light of Jesus Christ in you?
First, you need to find a community that is supportive of your choice to follow Jesus. Too many times I hear people say, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual, I believe in God, but I can’t bring myself to going to church.” Everyone is spiritual, everyone has that spark that reaches for the divine or the transcendent, but you cannot grow alone. You can not cultivate your faith in a vacuum. It’s not about religion, it’s about community. Religion becomes the way in which you communicate your spirituality. You need to have a community of people who will support you and help you in your own discernment process. Jesus did not do it alone, he gathered around him those people who would help and support him in his ministry. We are called to do the same, to gather those around us who will help and support us in our growing understanding of how God is working in our lives. We need other people to discern for us as well. We need other people praying for us, other people feeling the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Just like on a ship at sea, many people in different departments doing their part of the mission, but all striving for the same outcome, we need to find a community of faith that has the parts that we don’t have so that we can all work together for the glory of God and for God’s kingdom here on earth. God’s blessings to you all and may you find your time of discernment fruitful and rewarding.