In his 40 books on spirituality, Henri J. M. Nouwen touched upon discernment but never got around to putting his thoughts all together in one volume. Now in association with the Nouwen Legacy Trust, Michael Christiansen, who was one of his longtime students, and Rebecca Laird have taken materials from his coursework, journals, and never before published writings and put them together in Discernment. This is the third book in Nouwen's posthumous spiritual trilogy after Spiritual Direction (2006) and Spiritual Formation (2010).
In a robust and enlightening foreword, Robert A. Jonas discusses Nouwen's way of discernment as one of listening for the Word of God speaking to us everywhere and at all times. Or as Meister Eckhart put it: "Expect God evenly in all things." Our spiritual growth is facilitated by the ongoing curriculum provided by the Spirit. Nouwen provides a helpful definition of the territory that will be covered:
"Discernment is a spiritual understanding and an experiential knowledge of how God is active in daily life that is acquired through disciplined spiritual practice. Discernment is faithful living and listening to God's love and direction so that we can fulfill our individual calling and shared mission."
Nouwen sees Christian communities providing the sacred time and space for this process to take place. He moves on to cover discerning guidance in books, nature, people, and events. One of the most challenging aspects of the Christian journey is reading the signs of the times — especially those in which God intervenes and reveals new beginnings.
Nouwen hits the mark with his commentary on discerning vocation, presence, identity, and time. Here the author shares the difficult choices he had to make on the road to L'Arche Daybreak, the community where he eventually served. Knowing the right time (kairos) to act is crucial in the art of discernment.