This blog post was guest-written by by Angela Cowser.
For the Lord gives wisdom, and from God’s mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6
On the afternoon of my father’s burial (March 17, 2011), a group of my parents’ friends gathered for conversation in my mother’s den. We talked about a range of topics, most especially my dear Papa. I found myself deep in conversation with one of our next-door neighbors, who was sitting to my right, when a woman sitting to my left interrupted my conversation to ask me:
“How do I help my 27-year-old daughter develop a discerning spirit”?
I asked her why this question was important to her and why she thought I might have an answer. She said that there was a lot of trickery and deception in the world; she wondered how to teach her daughter to make wise decisions. This mother, watching me listen to my neighbor, believed “that I had wisdom.”
What’s at stake in this mother’s question? A scenario: at some point you or I may find ourselves in a car with a drunk driver. If there is an accident, the consequences could be catastrophic and life-altering: possible death or disability of the driver, passengers, fellow motorists, loss of driving privileges, imprisonment. How do we help (young) people make good decisions about whether to get into the car, or stay out, and understand the implications of either action? And, what about decisions regarding money, relationships, work and career, politics, faith, and religion? So many voices, opinions, and agendas compete for our allegiance – how do we teach wisdom, discourage foolishness, and help those who know it all realize that they know very little?
The writers of Proverbs tell us that knowledge (and discernment) begins with a fear of the Lord. From that godly foundation comes a willingness to listen to and learn from others and an ongoing desire to ask God to bless us with a Spirit of discernment.
At Eastminster Presbyterian Church, one way we nurture discernment in our adult Sunday Bible class is to create a culture of confessional honesty. We bring our joys and struggles to the table, where they are handled with care, love, and deep questioning. Through the unction of the Holy Spirit, both students and teacher pursue wisdom and pray for godly counsel and direction. We place a high premium on paying attention and staying alert and sober. Each week, we place personal experience, tradition, and reason up against the Word to “unmask idolatries in (self), Church, and culture,” so that together, we may grow to full maturity in Jesus Christ.
Cultivating a discerning spirit is a lifelong pursuit and a virtue necessary not just for the young. Bless you.
Angela Cowser, Louisville Seminary alumna (MDiv ’06), is Associate Pastor of Multi-Cultural Ministries at Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and Ph.D. Candidate in ethics, homiletics, and practical theology at Vanderbilt University Divinity School.