Whenever I’ve been unclear and ambivalent about how to proceed in any given situation, especially relationally, I’ve often gone outward to seek guidance. It has proven to be useful and beneficial, but it can also keep me dependent on external sources of wisdom while stunting my own development of discernment.
I’ve been confused about where to go for guidance when facing a crossroads. Do I go inside myself because I know myself best, or do I seek wisdom and guidance from others because they have a more objective perspective? I’ve often thought it was an either/or approach, yet I’m realizing I don’t have just one “right” option. Wisdom and discernment often come through BOTH avenues; inside and outside of myself, from trusting myself AND trusting others who’ve earned my trust. Wisdom can be imported from external sources, or it can be imported from my own internal sources of wisdom within. god as I understand it is the source of all wisdom, and discerning Hhs voice is what I am after. He does speak to me from within, for he dwells within my inner-spirit. It’s just a matter of unveiling his voice, which is often unconventional.
My current ambition involves the practice of going within myself, first. Whenever possible, I do a self check-in, using the tools of Dr. Dan Siegel’s acronym of SIFT.Sensations Images Feelings Thoughts
If I still feel confused and ambivalent, I have the option of going to others I trust. They can be friends, a therapist, family members, recovery fellow-travelers, a pastor, books, podcasts, blogs, etc. These are some of the options I have when trying to discern where God is lovingly guiding me. When I do seek out external sources of guidance, I am still the one who is ultimately discerning what feedback resonates and what does not. Using the SIFT tools while receiving feedback is always an option I can take. They empower me in helping me wake up and make a conscious choice, weighing what is going on inside of me AND the feedback I’ve heard from others. The process of discernment often involves a conscious and intentional dialogue within me and with trusted others. It is not a monologue, at least for me.
Ultimately, I am the one who must live with the decisions I make for my own life. How I discern applying my value-system with its certain expectations, limitations and boundaries will evoke judgement from others and within, always. But it is my life I am trying to live out, not somebody else’s, so fearing the judgment is a major distraction in gaining discernment. The truth is, everybody judges everybody, myself included. So, then what?
Love frees me because it feeds me. It frees me from fearing the inevitable judgment that is part of living life on earth. Judgement will come, as surely as gravity pulls me back down to the ground after I jump. Checking in with myself from a place of love and being fed, in the midst of judgments are what will keep me centered. Love feeds me, judgment robs me.
Jesus is my Center. He dwells within me. He showed me explicitly on the cross how to judge myself aright – as loved, and as worthy to die for. When I am love-hungry I’m ripe for Jesus’ love to enter in, yet I’m also vulnerable to fearing judgments and internalizing (feeding off) them. This is what robs me of living life to the fullest extent. Jesus came to give life, not take it.
“The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance.” -John 10:10
Self check-ins based in love, not fear are the way for me to go. Interchanging judgment with punishment in the verse below helps me get this, because judgment sure can feel like punishment to me, just as chewing on food that I crave, but not being able to swallow it.
“Love will never invoke fear. Perfect love expels fear, particularly the fear of punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been completed through love.” – 1 John 4:18