I found this article online at http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3942/is_200504/ai_n13499984
It is pretty neat. You should read it.
"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on thee."
Lutheran, The, Apr 2005 by Dahill, Lisa E
In his life and death, Bonhoeffer teaches us about discernment
Sixty years ago this month-April 9,1945-German Lutheran theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged at the Flossenburg concentration camp. Only 39, Bonhoeffer arrived at the gallows not because of nonAryan ancestry or some other factor marking him for Nazi persecution. Rather, he had engaged in a series of decisions that resulted in his arrest, imprisonment and execution.
In 1939 Bonhoeffer returned to Berlin, leaving a church position in New York. Once back in Germany, he joined his brother, brothers-in-law and others in the underground resistance to Adolf Hitler. Their conspiracy was unsuccessful in unseating Hitler and stopping the war and the Holocaust. The Gestapo discovered the plot in 1943. Bonhoeffer's involvement sent him to prison and cost him his life.
What drew Bonhoeffer to this course?
We can trace the path his decisions opened. But he would frame the matter differently and at a deeper level-in terms of his discernment of God's call. In his wrestling with whether to remain safely in New York in 1939 or return to Germany, we can see Bonhoeffer probing deeply into God's word, his own feelings and reactions to the living Word and, over and over, his desire to live with Jesus Christ no matter the cost, wherever he may lead: "to be found only where he is ... the place where he is for me."
Bonhoeffer discerned that the place Jesus Christ was for him wasn't in safety in New York but back in Germany, taking part in resistance to the evil overwhelming his country and church. Questions of discernment were at the heart of spiritual faith and practice for Bonhoeffer all his life. By the time of his death, he would push questions of spiritual discernment perhaps further than any other contemporary saint.
What difference does it make to shift from thinking of decisions to thinking of discernment?
In decisions, I am the actor, making the choice-perhaps in concert with others, perhaps not. I am the one at the center sorting through multiple or perhaps innumerable options at hand. I have the task of weighing these hundreds or thousands of daily decisions, attending to them, choosing well or badly.
In contrast, in discernment God is the actor, the one at the center of the process. God is the one to whom I look and in whose presence certain options fall away unnoticed, while others come to the fore more clearly. Ultimately, God is the One toward whom my entire life is tending and in relation to whom both personal and communal discernments become opportunities for profoundly deepened intimacy and joy.
Here is Bonhoeffer's reflection on what a disconcerting difference it can make to move from a stance of active decision-making to one of reflective and contemplative discernment:
"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on thee (2 Chronicles 20:12). It was a man of action, an Israelite king, who spoke these words, a man threatened by enemies, a man on the verge of war, a man of courage.... Plans are needed, programs, decisiveness. [But] something happens that is extremely odd and yet so completely biblical: his plans and programs melt into prayers, his decisiveness dissolves into despondency and humility. He concludes his speech-his program for war-by saying, 'We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on thee.' "
Bonhoeffer spoke these words in a sermon in 1932, the year before Hitler came to power. He continues his sermon noting how unaccustomed we are, even as Christians, to the authentic language of discernment this Israelite king represents:
"If one of our leaders stood before us at a decisive hour for our people and [said], 'We don't know what we should do,' we would hardly be captivated.... We are accustomed to something else, something better.... Programs and plans don't dwindle into prayers; they stir up flames of enthusiasm for the symbols and banners of our good and just cause.... Prayers are elevated into programs, requests into commands. At the end of our summons to action, the name of God must be invoked; God must be placed in service of our summons, our clever plans, our decisiveness. ... How miserable, how paltry, how shameful and cowardly ... how unpatriotic must a person seem by contrast whose entire program consists in the idea: We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on thee.
(Translation by George Hunsinger, www.cfba.info/ser mons/exaudi.htmlj
This stance is what the Christian means by discernment: the deeply prayerful capacity to look to God for direction, to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ and his leading daily-especially in times of complexity, crisis and fear. When anxieties rise, we may be tempted to do something -anything-to resolve the situation. Or we can become paralyzed and unable to act at all. In either case it's easy to lose sight of the One whose ways are often hidden and unexpected, whose presence can take us by surprise. This is no clear or simple task but a complex spiritual discipline requiring years of practice in attending to God.
Discernment isn't a capacity we somehow are born with. Neither was Bonhoeffer. Like all of us, Bonhoeffer had to learn-slowly, and with much groping and confusion-what it might mean to attend to the presence and leading of God for himself. Because of this, he can teach us a great deal about our lives of discernment in Christ.
How did he learn discernment? His sermon text itself contains two moves, each of fundamental importance.
"We do not know what to do." The first move of discernment for Bonhoeffer is simply the admission that, in reality, we don't know. This "not knowing" is of paramount importance for Bonhoeffer throughout his life. It's the humble recognition of our humanity, our radical humility before God, our constant need to be shown the way-and our constant temptation to think we know better than God.
Bonhoeffer identifies this human propensity to think we know what is right or wrong in any given situation as the voice of temptation itself. In Eden it's the serpent who promises, "You shall know good and evil." And the humans believe. The primal human temptation isn't eating the forbidden fruit itself, but the attempt to claim a sure knowing of the good.
Much later in his life, Bonhoeffer frames this "not knowing" even more powerfully. To move into a truly Christian ethic, he asserts, we are faced with an "outrageous demand": to give up any claim to know what is "good" or "evil" as a general principle. Instead we are to ask a very different question, and to ask it anew in each new situation we face: "What is the will of God?" (Ethics, see page 29.)
Whether the issue is ours today-where to invest my life's energy or whether our church ought to bless homosexual relationships or should our nation pull back from Iraq or dig in deeper-or his in 1944 on how to proceed in the face of Hitler's psychopathic leadership, our stance is the same. We can't even begin the process of discernment without this outrageous humility: We truly do not know what to do. We make ourselves entirely open in radical vulnerability to where God may be leading us. This means we are open to being surprised by God: Discernment is a stance of consummate trust.
"Our eyes are on thee." It's all well and good to say we must seek the will of God. But the obvious question is, "How?" We find a clue in the second phrase of this biblical text, and Bonhoeffer shows us several ways we, too, might learn to let our eyes rest on the One who alone shows us the way.
Here are three practices for discernment Bonhoeffer taught and lived throughout his life that foster this contemplative capacity.
* Scriptural listening. Bonhoeffer encourages us as individuals and communities to attend daily to the living Word, the One whose presence is grace and mercy, whose discipleship is joy. He taught his seminarians to meditate 30 minutes each day on the daily appointed texts and to let these passages become transparent to God's own Word/or them, for that day.
Practices of devoted listening to the Word teach us to recognize God's voice, to stay within earshot and to let the living mercy that is Jesus Christ orient our lives more fully to God.
* Confession and radical truthtelling. Yet we can't learn to listen on this level all alone. Alone, we can't readily distinguish God's voice from others that tug at our attention, even in meditating on Scripture. Therefore Bonhoeffer taught seminarians also to practice regular mutual confession with one another.
Since we easily deceive ourselves, we need to open our hearts to others' gaze. Very often the sins from which God is most eager to redeem us are ones we are quite blind to on our own.
So we need trusted friends in Christ to help us distinguish inner voices that harm us or others from places where God is longing to invite us into greater freedom and love. Whether in spiritual direction, in 12-step programs, or in ongoing faith-sharing with close companions, we each need places where we learn to speak and hear and receive the living truth of Christ.
* Practice in loving and being loved. Discernment for Christians isn't only about making wise decisions in accord with God's will-it's about love, living in love with Jesus Christ. Throughout his life Bonhoeffer reminds us that the point of discipleship, of learning to follow Jesus wherever he leads, isn't any predetermined program or agenda. The point is solely and only Jesus himself: our hearts' intimacy with this One who is Love incarnate for us and for all, and with those in whom he is present today.
It's about love. Practice in loving and being loved-in our intimate communities and church communities-both roots in and opens us more fully to God in love. And the intermingling of human and divine love we learn in Jesus Christ opens us also to recognize him more fully in his present-day crucifixions in those who suffer violence, alienation, poverty-for Bonhoeffer, the Jews.
"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on thee." We learn from Bonhoeffer the contours of a truly discerning life in Jesus Christ. And we learn from him, too, the power and freedom of such a life-the transforming, divine energy poured out in the world through a heart, soul and life lived entirely in devotion to God. The experience of joy that emerges from an authentic discernment is one of the most Easter-like experiences I know. It is choosing, letting one's life fall entirely into God's love. It is being freed from the "death" and bondage of every lesser allegiance.
Yet paradoxically, Bonhoeffer also reminds us that discipleship and the discernment at its heart aren't some great achievement but a gift, the gift God opens for each of us at our baptism. Like him, we need a life-time-and beyond-to grow in the capacity for living this gift and letting it slowly claim our lives and those of our families, our churches, even our world. But the call itself is as close as our hearts.