dancing pilgrims

Historically, I have HATED the process of discernment. Why? Because it has a profound prerequisite: self-love, which requires self-knowledge which, in itself, reveals a second, foundational prerequisite: wisdom. As an often-confused adoptee, such golden gifts weren’t always forthcoming, especially when I was younger.

A common characteristic of adoptees is fear of rejection. One would think this to be self-evident since rejection, at least in broad terms, is what we have experienced even in utero. Although that probably overstates it a bit, people like me have a terrible time in the decision-making process because it includes elements that are not in our wheelhouse. For example, intentionality, which presupposes determination, which presupposes confidence, which presupposes freedom, which presupposes a general sense of acceptance, which presupposes a universe more or less benevolent, which presupposes…well, you get my point.

This process gets ramped up exponentially early in our lives when, perhaps at college, we’re not only trying to figure out where God would have us, but also what it is we are to be about, who we are as people and with whom we are to spend our lives, if anyone. Too much unthinking advice gets bandied about in times like these. One’s friends, equally confused, tell us, “take care lest you find yourself outside the ‘perfect will of God.’” Great, let’s add some guilt along with the fear already in the mix! Worse still are the mating rituals to which we were all to prescribe. They were often rituals designed to actually keep us from really getting to know ourselves let alone another human being since they, too, are built on suspicion, regret, fear and…more fear. Faith as one big ‘what if?’ or ‘should I?’

Well, I am not about to singlehandedly untie the God’s-will enigma in a simple blog post. However, allow me at least to share three gifts of great worth that have helped remove my fear of discernment.

First, as a guy now 50 years old, I have some history of decision-making. All I can say is, God’s got this. My worst decisions, ever, seem to have been redeemed quite nicely in the hands of a loving and particularly creative God. This pares down decisions not to right and wrong but good and better.

Second, it’s not just up to me. The next time some misguided but well-meaning soul comes up to you and says, “I just really feel God told me…,” let your response be, “Interesting. And to who else has God told this?” God speaks to us in community. We can get impressions and experience joy or caution, but it will be through others that the stick of God’s will gets sharpened to a finer point.

Finally, avoid a theology that dictates God’s will as the head of a pin stuck in the center of a bull’s eye viewable from a full moon while facing east on Tuesday afternoons in a leap-year November. Such is not a theology at all but a control mechanism built on fear. If all is grace, then so is our process of discernment.

bull's eye

In the economy of God we do not trip blindly into that dark night. We dance blithely in the arms of a particularly good dancer, unafraid to take the lead and with whom every spin is ultimately in the “right” direction. So dance away, little pilgrim!

With you on the journey, RAR


What is your greatest fear related to the will of God?

How are you engaging God in community to best discern God’s present and future for you?

Pray this: “Lord of all the universe, my past, present and future are cupped in the palm of your eternal hand. Help me to face them all with courage and confidence, recognizing that you are benevolent and strong and will never leave me to face any of it alone. Lord, since you redeem all my “mistakes” I can relax and simply dance with you in peace and unspeakable joy. Through Jesus, the one leading me on this dance floor…Amen.”

Dancers pic found here, bull’s eye pic found here



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Robert Alan Rife

Robert Rife, M.A., minister of worship and music for Yakima Covenant Church (formerly Westminster Presbyterian) in Yakima, Washington, is a self-proclaimed book-nerd-word-herder, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes!), singer-songwriter, studio musician, choral director, poet, and liturgist. He maintains two personal blogs: Innerwoven and Robslitbits. He also blogs at Conversations Journal. Robert describes his vocation as exploring those places where life, liturgy, theology, and the arts intersect with and promote spiritual formation.

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