Who Would Have Thought? Reflections About Discernment on a Road Well-Traveled

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image

My wife Pat and I moved to England nine years ago, so I could pursue my Ph.D. in New Testament at Oxford. Our lives were turned upside down. Taking only clothing, books, and family pictures, we left everything else behind. Displaced, disrupted, we struggled during that difficult time of change.

The biggest challenge was our radically altered daily routine. For years, we got up each morning and went to our respective places of employment. We spent time at home together, usually at night and on weekends. In England, however, our house became both home and office for the two of us.

We shared the same space all day long, every day of the week. It was almost too much companionship! Sharing evenings and weekends is one thing. It’s something very different to spend all day, most days, together.

The new environment created conflict and tension. Both of us had lots of work to do, but being in the same place at the same time led to many interruptions. We weren’t as productive as we used to be.

We knew God wanted us in this new place. We knew we were being divinely challenged with new opportunities, but we needed to change in order to move forward.

A retired friend helpfully summarized our problem. She said, “Remember, you married each other for better and for worse, but not for lunch every day!”

Our new situation called for new discernment of God’s will in our daily lives. Old, established, even successful patterns of behavior had to change for us to remain faithful to God in the new, but surprisingly difficult, circumstances. One seminary professor put it this way: “Consistency in leadership is one of the most overvalued virtues!” Good leaders remain flexible in the ever-changing circumstances of life and work.

With much prayerful discernment, Pat and I renegotiated an important part of our common life. Our “workplace” was now part of our home, and we needed boundaries. I learned how to go to work in my office, even when it was just a bedroom down the hall. I maintained a disciplined work schedule, even though I was at home with Pat nearby. We both learned how to leave each other alone, working for hours on end, even though we were within earshot all the time.

We took a risk. And it paid off. By changing old, successful patterns, we embraced a new way of living together. We became more productive in our work, and we found more joy in our lives. Like the Ephesians, we learned how to “walk worthily of the calling to which we were called.” Our new environment required a new manner of walking, a new way of working together properly. As we adapted, God built up our marriage in love.

Your workplace conditions will change too. New contexts will present difficult new circumstances. Discipline yourself to seek God’s will. Faithful leadership invites

Collaborative Reflection—Everyone involved can help evaluate the changed conditions.
Collective Planning—Everyone involved can help the team respond well to new challenges.
Honest Assessment—The leader must establish a process for examining the fruitfulness of individual ideas and a consensus must be reached about which is best.

Together, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we engage in prayerful discernment. When every part of the body properly works together, we grow into a more complete image of Christ. Be confident. The Spirit leads us. The Spirit teaches us new ways to embody Christ in the fresh and changing opportunities God presents.