Have you ever read a book and known it was just the right book for just the right time? That was Discernment by Henri Nouwen. It was just the right book for me, at just the right time. In a season where I have been asking “God, what would you have me do next?” this book helped me hear God’s answer. Or at least begin to hear God’s answer.
Henri Nouwen in a well known counselor and priest, Nouwen found his spiritual home in a community of people with disabilities. He taught at Harvard, Yale, and University of Notre Dame and communicated by letter with people all over the world. He wrote many books while living, yet Discernment was written after his death. It is a compilation of Nouwen’s various writings on listening for and hearing what God might be saying to us and how God might be guiding us.
Reading Discernment is like listening to a wise mentor and sharing questions and conversation. Nouwen shares lessons on solitude, community, and figuring out truth. Through books, nature, people, and life events, Nouwen believes we can all know our vocation, our true identity, the presence of God, and the time to act. It isn’t simply, yet we can all seek to know God.
By dipping deeply into the well of our own lives, we can discern the movements of God’s Spirit in our lives. Careful discernment remains our lifelong task. I can see no other way for discernment than a life in the Spirit, a life of unceasing prayer and contemplation, a life of deep communion with the Spirit of God. Such a life will slowly develop in us an inner sensitivity, enabling us to distinguish between the law of the flesh and the law of the Spirit. We certainly will make constant errors and seldom have the purity of heart required to make the right decisions all the time. But when we continually try to live in the Spirit, we at least will be willing to confess our weakness and limitations in all humility, trusting in the one who is greater than our hearts.Discernment, pg. 170
Discernment helped me breath and pay attention to all the signs around me that point to God’s goodness and direction. It helped me in deciding to move toward a coaching ministry. It helped me be still enough to hear some family directions. The patient, guiding wisdom of Henri Nouwen reminded me to be patient with myself, be honest with myself, and wait in God’s time.
If you are in a season of wondering what to do with your life, I highly recommend Discernment. And if you’ve already read it, or another book by Henri Nouwen, I love to know your thoughts too!
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