“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.
4 thoughts on “Whose Will?”
“Only our hearts are big enough for freedom.” Brings tears to my eyes. And “…dicey at best” brings a smile.
Do you think “What next?” works as a question? Or is it a disguised “should?” Or maybe “Guide me, please” which is more of a request. I think usually I say “Help!”
Rachel, you are so brave…. this is the way I fumbling think, but rarely dare to even say it out loud let alone post it for the world. You also manage to make us should-ers laugh. (Computer wanted to change my should-ers shoulders. That made me laugh too.) Bless you on both your progress and on diving into that divine will…. every once in a while I find I’ve stumbled into and it’s glorious, but the next thing I know I’m back at square one. HA! Gotta keep laughing.
Dead on, Rachel.
I wonder if somewhere there is a Perfectionist Anonymous? I spent a lot of my life with a bad case of the “shoulds.” Now I try for much simpler. I try for the “cans.” How can I stay on the path to God? How can I take that path with me into the world? The best answer I have gotten is “Pray constantly,” but the very busyness of the world interrupts that all the time. My meditation time helps me experience “being” with God, and times of knowing where I am on my path and what steps to take next…but fleetingly. Thanks for your thoughtful post.