For our church board retreat this spring, we read Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass. The book goes into great detail the research as to how our smaller community churches have been fading and joining into other churches with a new found network of inclusivity. The churches that are reforming into inclusive ones follow ten areas that Bass refers to as Signposts. The signposts include- hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection and beauty. Board members had to randomly draw two from a basket and we were to talk about them personally. I pulled out discernment as one of mine.
Most people don’t know what discernment is, but it’s really the Christian version of feeling led to do something specifically by God. I have issues with claiming discernment, because I have heard people use this as a way to say they feel led by God to treat other people like they are less… in other words excusing their self- righteousness behavior for exclusivity. When someone says I felt led to ———- by God, It comes off as insincere and in my head I’m thinking if you say that one more time in this conversation… I may feel led to smack you upside the head. No one can say they really heard God these days without someone wanting to check them into the closest mental health clinic. So many have used their moments of discernment for reasons of violence… so I believe you can feel led, but don’t go all crazy backing up your hate by calling it discernment or I will call your bluff.
This is not to say I haven’t felt moments of discernment myself, but how do you say this in a way to not sound like a crazy person? I like to describe my moments of discernment as to compare them to a moment of clarity, zen, and a stressless moment of being fine with the unknowns. I will pray mostly for this zen feeling that I may be at peace with whatever life has in store for me and my prayers are answered often. So I shared my examples of discernment at the board retreat and as moving as they may have been in that moment… I will not share them at church as you have learned via my blog that I’m so not that person to stand at the front and testify, but it doesn’t mean I can’t write it down.
~This is what I shared~
I tend to be a nervous person… not so anxious that I can’t function but I will worry and fret over something and mostly because I like things organized and I’m not fond of surprises. In early March of 2010, my husband was feeling oddly ill. He just wasn’t quite himself and had some odd abdominal pain. He went to the doctor and they weren’t sure what was going on with him and basically told him they didn’t know and sent him on his way. His symptoms were kind of all over the place and not pinpointing to anything specific, but we knew something was wrong. I slept okay that night even though he was in pain and he was not sleeping well. I woke the next morning and immediately thought- he’s going to have an appendectomy. He didn’t have a high fever, didn’t have vomiting and didn’t have pain in the area common areas so this didn’t make sense. So I got the kids up and off to the sitter and informed the sitter of my unexplained conclusion of the appendectomy and prepared her for the possibility of a weird pick up situation. I went to my classroom and prepped to teach. I felt no sense of urgency, but in retrospect I should have stayed with John. I just felt like I had time and it was fine. He got up and headed to the urgent care nearby. I started getting my things ready for the following day for the substitute and prepping for the current day. I went over to my friend Bridget’s room and I said , “Look I have a feeling John is going to have an appendectomy today and I need to get everything set up for the kids to be picked up and overnight care and find coverage for my classes tomorrow.” Bridget looked at me oddly and replied, “Okay….. What can I do?” She not once questioned me about my certainty, she didn’t bat an eye. By the time school was out, John was calling to tell me that they were sending him to the hospital and they were thinking he had appendicitis and I needed to head on over. I left school with confidence and Bridget and my friend, known as the Infamous Ms. Beth, helped arrange dinner, pick up and even were ready for a sleepover for my kids. The substitute plans were on my desk with copies for the next day and coverage organized for the following day for my classes. I brushed my hands off and headed on without a care or a doubt.
I walked into the hospital to be by his side sometime around 4:30 or 5 with no worries about my children. I made important calls and waited on news. I remember the smell, the noises, and the conversations around us and I was not afraid. The doctors came to talk with us and his appendix was so enlarged they were going to have to do emergency surgery. Around 7 or 8 that evening I walked beside John in the stretcher to the OR prep room which was oddly empty, but at that time of day it made sense. They discussed risks, complications, recovery and how he would be asleep in a matter of minutes. I held him and kissed him, but I didn’t question the doctors… I had no questions. I already had been prepared for this during my sleep the night before unbeknownst to me. They wheeled him away and I made important phone calls. I waited in the OR waiting room patiently. Patiently enough when Bridget called asking what else I needed I said, “Socks. I need a pair of socks my feet are freezing and I’m going to be here a while.” As the wonderful friend she is I got a nice pair of warm cozy socks. After some time, I had been in such great ease I couldn’t wait for him to come out of the OR and growing with some impatience I prayed again thanking God for leading me to this point and asked him to continue to lead me on this way. Shortly after, the surgeon came out to meet me and said that John was doing great and was in recovery. He also took time to mention that John’s appendix was the most disgusting gangrenous appendix he could say he had ever seen. Later that evening, I got to see John after his time in the recovery room. It felt oddly natural in a sense that it was weird in the comfort I felt. He was released two days later and did great at home.
At some point in the days that followed, John thanked me for having so much composure to juggle all of things the way I did. I replied, “No problem. I knew that’s what was happening all along. I can’t explain it and I can’t pretend it was anything else. Gut instinct (no pun intended), intuition, or just God applying those things through to me.” By the end April of 2010, I had walked into the doors of the church that I now serve as a board member. In this moment of discernment, I knew where I was going and exactly what needed to be done. I did so with ease and everything just fell into place and reassured my faith that led me to where I am today.
This hymn always reminds me of discernment and it’s one of my favorites.