Book Reviews, Christian Living

“Blink” and Discernment

For those of you who don’t know me personally, reading is one of my favorite activities. I know, it seems weird to call sitting around holding onto a pile of pages as an activity. Still, there are few things I get more personal joy from.I’ve been meaning to beginning picking up books by Malcolm Gladwell, and a friend recently lent a couple to me. Tonight I started his first book, Blink (Back Bay Books, 2007). The subtitle reads: The power of thinking without thinking. As a pastor, or as a Christian in general, I couldn’t help but find myself intrigued by the title and its implications. I’ve only just finished the introduction, but I think that I’ll be pleased with the rest of the material.

There is one quick thought I`ve had while putting the book down for the night, one that I think might be a new concept to some, and confirmation to others.

The book starts out with a story about an artifact that was sold to a museum. Before purchasing it, the museum conducted a series of tests and checks in an attempt to verify its authenticity. It was finally concluded that the artifact was genuine. However, a number of individual experts were able to view the item over the course of time, and many at first glance experienced a gut feeling, often unexplainable, that said it was a fake. As background and other checks were continued and concluded, it turns out that the object was a modern fake.

I think that the feeling that this author is going to try to explain is really that of discernment.

In Christian circles we tend to spiritualize a lot of things to the point that they no longer hold value in our daily lives. We label gifts and talents as “spiritual,” and subsequently lock them away in a compartment that can only be used in certain settings and situations. We also tend to forget that many “spiritual” qualities and gifts exist naturally within us, and find amplification when the Holy Spirit is added to our lives.

For a quick example, consider the fruit of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV).

Can’t any combination of these be found in the life of one who doesn’t believe in Christ? Are they then specific to the working of the Holy Spirit in one’s life? Perhaps someone who is not naturally kind finds himself unusually inclined to be kind after receiving Christ as Savior in his life. But having the Spirit is not a prerequisite for kindness. In fact, I’m sure you could name many people who appear to you to be more kind than many of the people you share a sanctuary with on Sunday morning.

If the Fruit of the Spirit can exist in us naturally, is it possible that Gifts of the Spirit could as well? Is it possible that discernment can exist in a life without it being empowered by the Holy Spirit? Could God have deposited something in a person’s life prior to conversion in order to reveal himself to that person?

Let’s go back to the concept of Blink. Over the course of one’s professional training, he/she tends to develop an intuition, an understanding, based on knowledge, study, experience, and expertise. I would argue that though we each condition, cultivate and employ that intuition differently, it is available to all of us. It is unique to our training, passion and knowledge, but it can be exposed to each of us.

Why go through the trouble of telling you this? I think that many Christians would look at this book and think to themselves, either because of theological dogma, self-esteem issues, or honest personal reflection, would consider that they do not have within them the “gift of discernment,” and so could not learn from such a book.

I would remind those that feel this way that we are to be led by the Spirit of God. Paul tells us to “walk in the Spirit.” I take that to mean that being in tune with the Spirit of God does not involved constant “checking in” with Him to see if we should or should not do something, be somewhere, or say something. It means that as we abide in Christ while living day-to-day on this earth, we are sensitive to the Spirit`s leading. That means that we will get those “feelings” from time to time. We must then choose to “hear what the Spirit is saying” and turn as He directs, or ignore it and continue with what our brain tells us, how our PDA reminds us, and how life pulls at us.

Discernment is real and can be powerful in our lives. It’s not just for feeling out the demonic or angelic, not only for those tasks that might be considered “super spiritual.” It is available in what might be considered the most mundane aspects of our lives. Don’t miss out on it. Learn about it, experiment with it, and allow God to build this gracious tool in your life.