Discernment – a sorting process

Guest blogger, Debbie Smith, MA, Director for the Center for Women in Medicine, is a life coach and leader with Medical Christian Fellowship at Vanderbilt.  She serves on the Siloam Institute’s oversight committee. Today, she writes about discernment and announces a Nashville-area discernment retreat.

Debbie writes…

Sorting Hat - Harry Potter

House affiliation is discerned using the “Sorting Hat” in Harry Potter’s adventures.

As I meet with medical trainees and professionals, one of the most common questions that comes up is how to know which option to choose when they are confronted with a fork in the road.  Whether it is something as large as vocational calling and direction or as ordinary as how to handle a relational interaction with a classmate or colleague, there is a longing to know how to make good choices.

Recently, I have met with many trainees who are contemplating choices such as choosing a residency program; whether they should take a year away from medical school to participate in personal or professional growth opportunities; how to navigate difficult family relationships, or whether to make a significant financial expenditure.  One of the things I have learned from my own spiritual journey is that God cares about every facet of our lives and that He longs for us to turn to Him for guidance and companionship as we sort out the options before us.

The discernment process is just that – a sorting process.  In her book, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Ruth Haley Barton says:  “Discernment literally means to separate, to discriminate, to determine, to decide or to distinguish between two things.  Spiritual discernment is the ability to distinguish or discriminate between good (that which is of God and draws us closer to God) and evil (that which is not of God and draws us away from God).”  She also quotes Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, in defining the goal of discernment as “finding God in all things in order that we might love and serve God in all.”

One of my goals for the work of spiritual formation that I am engaged in within the medical community is to provide contexts for individuals to slow down and engage with the questions that are swirling in their mind and heart.  Our culture, and particularly the culture of medicine, doesn’t always encourage this sort of thoughtful reflection and prayerful consideration, but Jesus invites us: Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Medical Christian Fellowship will host a Day of Discernment retreat on Saturday, February 9th from 9 am – 4 pm at St. Barthlomew’s Church (Nashville, Tennessee, USA).  To register, click here to download the registration form.

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