Discernment is a topic we talk a lot about in church. Some of our most beloved biblical stories, often called “call narratives,” are about discernment. They all have a pattern: God calls the individual to some bold action, the person resists (sometimes repeatedly and comically), but when the person eventually acquiesces, God equips the individual for the work.
I love these call narratives mostly because they are so human and relatable. But I sometimes wonder if the dramatically entertaining nature of these stories makes us think “calls” are something that only happens to certain, singled-out people. In truth, that is why we talk about discernment so much in the life of the church: because we want people to know that discernment is not just about major life transitions. Discernment happens repeatedly throughout life – sometimes at expected moments, like a school graduation, in response to a spouse’s new job, or even retirement. But discernment also happens in the times when we are plugging away at the calls we have already discerned: when a volunteer opportunity stirs something in us; when a friend makes an off-handed comment about a gift we should be honoring; or when we just feel a little discomforted but do not know why (as a spoiler, that discomfort is usually the Holy Spirit!).
In my ministry setting, we talk about discernment a lot. It is the topic of one of the six sessions in our Discovery Class (a newcomer/confirmation class). We talk about discernment from the pulpit – even when there is not some big call narrative in the lectionary. We talk about discernment in Bible study, in pastoral visits, and even over coffee. We have come to understand that “call” is not static, and that even within a call, or vocation, the Holy Spirit continues to move and nudge us in ways that enrich our own journey and the journey of those around us. Following Jesus means just that – continuing to follow wherever he may lead.
This week, I announced to my parish that the Spirit had been nudging me too. In this unique situation, it may be a nudge that does not come to fruition. Even in those cases, God is doing something too. But it may also lead to something new and different. That is the risk we take when we listen to the Holy Spirit. I cannot authentically encourage my community into constant discernment if I am closed to the possibilities of the Spirit – especially when I would be perfectly happy to stay right where I am. And so, this week I join you in that gloriously off-centered life that is the life of following Jesus. I do not know where it will lead, but I am grateful for a community who journeys with me!