“What should I do?” is a question I ask God fairly often. Or so I thought. Recently it appears that actually I’m asking myself, and the question is closer to “What is the one step I can take that will keep me on the invisible path that makes me right and perfect?” Because as anyone who reads this blog knows, I’ve maintained a perfect record of right-ness and perfect-ness so far.
Discernment is the practice of getting in touch with God’s will. “What should I do?” is not about stepping into the divine flow in a way that is most beneficial to all of creation, including me—which might be what following God’s will means.
In The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Poemen says, “To throw yourself before God, not to measure your progress, to leave behind all self-will; these are the instruments for the work of the soul” (from the Benedicta Ward translation). All this time I thought I was practicing discernment, I was just measuring progress. “Should” is a dead giveaway that we’ve substituted progress measuring for the will of God.
Much of my thinking, say 99 percent, is about how well I’m doing and how far I’ve gotten, in other words, progress. But progress toward what? Seeing as we really don’t know where we’re going, trying to figure out how close we are to the end seems dicey at best.
I’m fairly certain that God doesn’t do “should.” God invites but doesn’t obligate, loves but does not impose. Laws are useful, but God is inviting us to freedom, which begins in our hearts. Only our hearts are big enough for freedom.
“Should” is a giveaway that I’m not leading with my heart. There is no room in love for how things ought to be according to me, only for how they are.
So how does discernment work instead? I have absolutely no idea. When I experience it, I’ll let you know.