“God comes to you disguised as your life.” – Paula D’Arcy
Wherever you are right now, reading this post, you have arrived at this point because your unique life has brought you here. For some of you, your path has not been easy. Perhaps you are just bone weary from the relentless difficulties that have come your way. Others of you are gripped with unrelenting guilt and regret as you look at where your life has taken you. While still others of you have a deep sense of satisfaction and joy as you ponder the circumstances, people and decisions that have shaped who you are today. Studying your life is an important discipline; from it we learn, we change, we grow, we heal, and we discern our current situation and consider the decisions placed in front of us.
There is a grave danger of travelling through this thing called life having eyes to see but never looking, having ears to hear but never listening, having a mind that can think but never wondering, and a voice that can speak but that remains silent. Many of us are so swept up in simply surviving or pursuing this idea called happiness that our life gets very little scrutiny, and the process of discernment remains a lost art to many.
Religions don’t always help. Centres of Spirituality can and should provide spaces where people are invited to discover that they have eyes that can see deeply, ears that can hear with the heart, a mind that soars amidst mystery and complexities, and a voice, that coupled with courage, can make a remarkable difference in the affairs of this world. Instead, some religious systems, functioning from a place of fear, power or survival, embed blind acceptance and inattentiveness even further. The shrill voices of dogmatic absolutes often drown out, or simply silence, the whispers of longing and wonder. Yet your life, and the questions that unfold living it, are sacred and worthy of attention.
So, sadly, the art of discernment, so essential for this journey we are on, is not always imparted to us from the places, or from the people, we had hoped would guide us. If we are not careful, we can live in the cloistered, heavily-guarded walls of adopted, unexamined paradigms for years. Some remain there for a lifetime. Yet, your life is given to you as one of the greatest gifts of discernment. If you desire to engage in it with your whole heart then it is time to break down some walls and pay attention.
When I am mindful of my life, I recognise, for example, why I love the things I do: gardens, animals, outdoors, family and close friends, books, history … I can even trace my love for coffee in my memories. When I pay attention I am less likely to have my life hijacked by wrong decisions or someone else’s ‘wonderful plan for my life’. As I develop the art of discernment, I understand why I choose the things I do, what I am drawn to, or what I need to be cautious about. I also begin to recognise and acknowledge my own shadow. Discernment is the key to looking deeper and recognising the patterns my life have left.
Friend, I have not walked in your shoes, experienced your heartbreak nor moments of triumph. Only you have lived your life. But I can tell you that your life speaks, no begs, for you to pay attention. The discernment process at any life stage is never easy. It’s not meant to be. Discernment, by its very nature is meant to be an expedition into unknown terrains. It is this very process that is part of growth and maturity. So the easy, instant answers we look for are seldom a reality. Your life comes to you like a wise and faithful friend offering you insight and counsel. The keys you are looking for are not in the life of another – they are within you. Listen to your life.
I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way. Jesus