Updated: Feb 1, 2022
In a series of 4 blog articles for i4CC Trevor Hudson shares some reflections around how to engage more intentionally in ‘sacred conversations.’ (Excerpted and adapted with permission from his book, DISCOVERING GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE -A User’s Guide to Discernment to be published by Struik Christian Media in November 2021.)
We seldom discern God’s personal will all alone. The glimpses we get of our personal calling are enriched as we engage in conversations with others.
When we explore what God wants for us with others, we get surprising insights that give important clues to how the Spirit wants to lead us. You may already have experienced this. You might find yourself unclear about your next step in a certain situation, even after praying about it, and remain unclear about to proceed. Then one day you talk things over with a caring friend, and the way ahead becomes clearer. Looking back on this conversational encounter, you become aware that God used this conversation to guide you.
We should not be surprised by this. When we open our lives to Christ, he always comes with his arms around his family. We do not follow him purely on our own. The Bible knows nothing of spirituality in isolation. We discern God’s personal will as part of God’s people. While we need time on our own with the Lord to prayerfully reflect on what is happening within and around us, we also need interaction with other Christ-followers. Through these conversations with our companions in the faith, the risen Christ promises to be with us. Jesus himself said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt 18:20) As we share with one another, making room for his Spirit who is always there with us, we open ourselves to God’s leading and guidance.
There is another reason why discernment requires conversation. Our individual perception of the situations facing us is often extremely limited. Sometimes we get so locked up in the ‘blind spots’ of our own patterns of thinking that we fail to see how God may be present and active in other ways within and around us. There is little doubt that we need to dialogue with others to expand our picture of what God may be doing and saying. We often interpret our experiences through lenses that blind us to a wider picture of what is going on spiritually. It takes a conversation with another faithful follower of Christ to see things more clearly. Often God reveals one part of the picture to one person, and another part to someone else.
While God is present and active in all our interactions, we also need to set aside conversational space to reflect on what God may be saying and doing in our lives. These conversational encounters are referred to in this chapter as sacred conversations. They happen when we get together with someone we trust and whose faith-journey we respect. They are grace-gifts as we seek to discern God’s personal will for our lives. Anyone wanting to go deeper in their discerning journey will have shared in several of such conversations. Without these kinds of interactions along the Way, it is highly unlikely that we will grow in the adventure of discernment.
Let me try to describe how a sacred conversation can happen for you in your everyday life. Possibilities for such occasions are more present than we usually think. We can have these kinds of conversation with those closest to us, with colleagues at work, with our next-door neighbour, with someone in our small group, or with a stranger in a carpark. They take place when we learn to listen well to each other, develop an ability to ask wondering questions, and risk sharing what is most real in our own lives. Let me explore each of these in turn with the hope that they will open for you a deeper engagement in sacred conversations with those around you. This could also lead you into a clearer discerning of how God is present and active in your life right now.