It happens every year when the light of February overtakes the shadows of January. Punxsutawny Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog, and the Super Bowl, the world’s most famous football game, make their grand arrival and at the root of all their fanfare is the issue of predictions.
The groundhog, which now has a Facebook page, Twitter account and satellite feed, reenacts the legend that says if the critter sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If not, spring is supposedly around the corner. According to GameBookers.com, the odds are stacked for Phil to see his shadow tomorrow (February 2).
The Super Bowl is predicted to be a close game, the New England Patriots a 3.5 point favorite to beat the New York Giants despite the fact the Giants won an earlier regular season game as well as the last time they played in the Super Bowl. My money, figuratively speaking, is on the Giants.
Each year we calculate new goals and end up spending serious time on life planning or predictions about how “perseverance and passion” will lead us into our preferred future. While I will never doubt the power of perseverance and passion, I do find myself wondering if we beat the drum of these two “no-brainers” without listening to the steadying music of “discernment.”
A tragic story I read brought this to sheering clarity. It is the story of Nathan Stiles. Straight-A student, homecoming king and football team star running back who also played varsity basketball and loved to sing at church. After sitting out three games for persistent headaches, his second game back and last game of his senior year turned out to be the final game of his life. Nathan died of second-impact syndrome caused when a player is hit before the brain is healed from an initial concussion.
While nothing in the story indicates a negligence by either the doctors or the parents, I could not shake the underlying theme … why was no one able to “discern” that Nathan’s perseverance and passion would cause him to be involved in an activity that took his life?
Discernment is the ability to detect, to recognize and to perceive what is going on around you. It is insight beyond the obvious and outside the realm of facts. Discerning people have more than knowledge. They have understanding and perspective. Discerning people move beyond their wants to their needs. Discerning people make the right choices amid the tough circumstances.
Spiritually speaking, discernment enters into the realm of wisdom.
· King Solomon prayed for such wisdom: “So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil … (I Kings 3:9).”
· The Apostle Paul said, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9).”
Let me offer a prediction. Perseverance and passion, without the incredible power of discernment, can, not only take a life, they can derail yours and mine!
Look around. Where do you need the passion to step it up? Where do you need the perseverance to keep it going? And most of all, where do you need to stop and pray and think and discern your next step? It can be the difference between life and death.