Saturday, May 24, 2008

Possum of Discernment

photo: WeirdPictureArchive.com
This is a prophetic picture. The unfortunate creature is the Possum of Discernment. Its nefarious line-painting executioner would be any revival machine with the words “Judge Not” painted on its side in big red letters.

The idea of picturing discernment as a possum came to me while listening to a sermon last week on how to process Lakelands Bentley & the BAM-lets (not to be confused with Bennie & the Jets).

The pastor made the following insightful observation:

“Those of you with the gift of discernment have actually felt like you’re on the wrong side of the fence.

“I believe that God is calling you to refine things and to speak out, but when there’s a wave of excitement going through the room, the last thing you want to do is go, ‘Excuse me, I gotta concern about what’s going on here ...’

“You think to yourself, ‘I should just sit down, and shut up. And maybe it would be best – you know – if I just quietly sneak out and find a new church.”

He went on to encourage anyone with the gift of discernment to exercise it, even when it’s not popular. And that’s when I thought of the Possum of Discernment.

And why the Possum of Discernment often feels like – and ends up as – Revival Roadkill.

The wave of excitement” often feels more like a thundering tsunami than a slight surge in the surf. And believers with a genuine gift of discernment get worn out/worn down by these kind of reactions if/when they speak up:

  • You’re resisting/quenching the Spirit

  • You have a religious spirit (or its variant: Don’t be such a Pharisee)

  • Judge not, lest ye be judged (sometimes accompanied by “thus saith the Lord”)

  • Unity is where God commands the blessing, but you’re sowing division

  • God offends the mind to reveal the heart (translation: “Your brain’s in the way. Shut it off.”)

  • The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life

  • Have you ever repented for going to seminary and getting filled up with man’s wisdom? (Less common, but a fellow pastor once asked me this, in all seriousness.)

The relentless, heavy-handed repetition of these accusations feels like a steamroller is grinding you into the pavement. Many gifted discerners retreat from the line of fire and become functional Possums of Discernment. They sit down, shut their mouths, and hope for the best. The irony is that – whether they speak up or hold their peace – Revival Roadkill is in their future.

I found The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse to be an incredible resource. I’ve loaned out my copy numerous times, and have no idea who borrowed it last. Highly recommended.

The book includes a chapter on the all-important question: “Should I stay or should I go” (cue The Clash). I can’t recall the entire check-list from the chapter, but I recall clearly the one line that helped me immensely: “If you came for the first time today, knowing what you now know, would you join this church? If the answer is a clear NO, why are you staying?”

One thing is certain: adopting the Possum of Discernment position is to choose passivity, and passive people are the doormat everyone scrapes their boots on. Either decide to stay and ring the four-alarm firebell long and loud, or choose the better part of valor, according to Prophet Gump: “Run, Forrest! Run!”

Passivity = Possum = Roadkill.