Last Wednesday at church, Katherine and I ran into someone we’d been trying to connect with for a while. We started talking about making dinner plans for later that week, but finding a day that worked for everyone proved to be difficult. I was ready to give up and try again another time, but my wife was smarter than that. Thinking quickly, she said, “We could go right now.” I was stunned, because the idea hadn’t even crossed my mind. But we did, and it turned out to be a great time.
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself indecisive, but I am a ruminator. When making a decision, I take time—sometimes lots of it. I overthink things to the point of exhaustion. I do make decisions, but not without a great deal of effort and difficulty. And even once the decision’s been made, that doesn’t mean my brain slows down. Did I make the right decision? What are other people going to think? The cycle never ends.
A good deal of my decision-making effort is put towards being sensible. Taking a logical approach. Thinking through every detail and its consequences before actually doing anything. But that’s not what discernment is about.
The point of discernment isn’t to make good decisions. It’s to make wise decisions. And a formula for the latter simply doesn’t exist.
I think that wise decisions can come through a great deal of consideration. After all, we don’t want to just float through life doing whatever we feel like doing in the moment. God gave us our brains for a reason, and we’re meant to use them. But just like any other tool, if we rely too much on logic in decision-making, it can become a crutch and hold us back.
Discernment has other tools in its belt as well, many of which I am guilty of neglecting when I face a decision. Tools like scripture, accountability, prayer, community, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. How often do we turn to these sources of wisdom when thinking through something? If you’re like me, the answer is, “Not as often as I should.”
That’s not to say that all of my decisions have been bad. I’d like to think that I’ve done more things right than wrong, because I do try to practice discernment well. But I’ve also made some pretty big blunders, and when I reflect on them, I can see in each of them a lack of discernment on my part. I imagine that most of us could do the same if we’re being honest.
Thankfully, I was saved from making that sort of blunder last week when making dinner plans with my friend. Sometimes, discernment comes in the form of spontaneity. Or in simply listening to your wife. Other times, it looks different. But it always requires some combination of the tools God has given us. May we never neglect any of them, and may we always rely on them to help us make wise decisions.