by Liz Ivkovich
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20 NIV)
“We are in Him who is true…” The Jesus that we are in exists in this very moment, shining down on us like a spotlight. The hopes, dreams, and plans of five minutes ago are in the shadows. The future and how the pieces of the journey fit together are in the shadow. All the clarity we have is for this exact moment.
Discernment is a lifelong process for us as Christians, and so you seem to hear people talking about it all the time. Maybe it’s the community I’m in, where people live by three year contract cycles, or the friends I have who are just now graduating various schools en masse, but ‘Discernment’ seems to be the catch phrase of our generation of Christians.
I think that every time we make a decision or ‘discern’ something, it’s tempting to have a false sense of completion. I know that I often do this. “Ok, this question has been ‘discerned,’ now the end is obvious, the journey is over.”
In reality that mindset is spiritual death! If we are spiritually alive we know that every completed discernment is just the deep breath before Jesus kicks us back out of the boat and into the water.
I’m convinced that discernment in our lives with Jesus is about the process, not about the result. If we look at decisions – where we move, who we marry, what vocation we choose- as a path and not a destination, we are free to live in the spotlight of Jesus’ truth.
We can release our identities from where the path goes and just walk on it. When names, places, and dates change around us and in spite of us, we can let them go because we recognize in the spotlight of Jesus that we are not in control.
These are beautiful thoughts, but how do we ‘remain in the spotlight?‘ For me, the most important element of remaining in the spotlight is contemplative prayer. To sit in contemplation and bask in the love of Jesus is to receive the strength to know His truth.
Jesus’ truth is not easy, so many of His followers turned away in the face of it and could not follow Him any longer. Those that stayed must have realized that they needed the time in His presence to withstand the suffering ahead.
His truth calls us to enter the Paschal mystery; Passion, Death, and Resurrection. In Jesus’ perfect presence I suddenly see all these plans and hopes that my ego had carved out for me. It’s scary really how many creep in when you aren’t paying attention!
They seem selfish and insignificant compared to the greater tapestry of an empire, remixed! I have to choose to die to these passions so that Jesus can resurrect them in His way.
Yet, I am broken, and I get distracted by worry, fear, busyness, the needs of other people. I walk out of the spotlight, my prayer life suffers, and I begin to worry about the end of the journey.
Jesus reassures me; “I don’t want your perfection, I want your return.” He just continually calls me to return to Him, return to the place where He can meet me, and know His love.
Lent is a beautiful time to allow Jesus to lead us deeper into the truth of His presence and the Paschal mystery. That is what it has been for me, and I pray discernment and strength to live in His truth for you, my friends.