…is defined as “the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure; an act of perceiving something; a power to see what is not evident to the average mind.” The definition also stresses accuracy, as in “the ability to see the truth.” Spiritual discernment is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error. It is basic to having wisdom.
For a young woman who had scarcely ventured more than a hundred miles or so beyond her childhood home in south Texas, my journey at age 18 to Kenai, Alaska, a distance of 4,571 miles, was both exciting and daunting. The opportunity to expand my horizons, to experience the extraordinary beauty of this magnificent frontier appealed to me in a very personal way: the pioneering spirit is inherent in my genes! Traveling light was no problem for one so young. As a tender newlywed, my personal possessions were minimal and included only a few linens, an odd assortment of dishes and glassware, treasured books, a few sentimental trinkets, and…a yellowed photograph in a quaint well-worn frame of my Great-great-grandmother, she of the Oklahoma plains, a true pioneer who had inspired me from my early childhood to dream large. For many weeks prior to my departure date, I packed and re-packed those humble belongings in the heavy-duty cartons my Daddy provided, wrapping the fragile items in the linens to minimize weight and arranging the contents tediously and with great care in their nests to avoid damage from shifting or jostling on that long trip to their new home. International shipping options were limited in those days and while I reluctantly accepted that the least expensive and most practical means of conveying my “whole baggage” was air-mailing them via the United States Postal Service, I was nonetheless prepared for the reality that my shipment would arrive at its destination in no less than one month! Leaving one suitcase and one carry-on bag of essentials, I loaded my cartons onto Daddy’s utility trailer where he secured them tightly with nylon cord for the drive to his office in town where, as the USPS required, we taped each carton closed, wrapped them in heavy brown kraft paper, taped the paper securely, labeled them, and tied them over with multiple strands of twine. “All right then! Ready to go?”, Daddy inquired. “All ready!”, I replied. Imagine now, the stunned look on my face, when my Daddy unceremoniously THREW each of the cartons on the back of the utility trailer! “Hope you packed these good, Frijole, ‘cause that’s the way they’re going to be handled from now on, all the way to your front door. Time is money. And it’s not their responsibility to baby-sit what you may have irresponsibly packed.”
That moment was my introduction to adulting 101! Although I had packed my belongings with great care to the best of my ability, I had never once taken into consideration the potential hidden dangers along the way to which those cartons might be subjected! Simply put, I had failed to exercise discernment in my planning, and yet, those meager household and personal belongings arrived in pristine condition with the exception of one small item, a sentimental bauble gifted to me by my Grandmother. In retrospect, would I have packed with less care? Probably not. But over time, as life’s decisions and choices and temptations grew broader in scope and gravity, I thought often of that occasion and about how God had graced His naïve child with His mercy.
Proverbs 9:10 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. God’s curriculum vitae is never ill timed. “When the pupil is ready, the teacher will come”, I heard once, and indeed, it was years later, when completing a degree in nursing, a wise professor offered this advice, once again compelling my heart to seek wisdom in discernment: “When confronted with any decision, or for that matter, even with orders from a superior, always remember that it is your personal wisdom and integrity on the line. Always ask yourself, ‘Is there any reason I should NOT do this? Whatever the options, what are the potential consequences of my decision?’ “. Secular counsel, yes. But as an old Deacon friend of mine once shouted, “That’ll PREACH, my friend!”
In 1 Kings 3:7-12, Solomon pours out his humble plea before the Lord with these words: “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The Word continues: The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!”
God’s reply was the reassurance Solomon so clearly needed, and the confirmation that we each need, every day, to take our plans and our dreams and our desires and indeed our frustrations and griefs to Him before striking out on emotion and human intellect. Hebrews 4:12 tells us, For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.
Trust the Holy Spirit today to give you the wisdom and discernment to know his plans and purposes for your life, plans and purposes which will ultimately result in His glory. And isn’t that man’s purpose? To glorify our heavenly Father? Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
P.S.: The broken pieces of grandma’s treasured little gift are carefully tucked away, a reminder of her love, of my Daddy’s wise counsel, and of my Father’s eternal care for me.
P.P.S.: In the words of an iconic American hero, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” And if you can tell me who said that, like me, you’ve been traveling down this road of life a long, long time! 😊
A Noble Road…thoughts from a simple country woman