Saying Yes: Discovering and Responding to God’s Will in Your Life
by Albert Haase, OFM
Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2016
Reviewed by Amelia J. Stratton-Smith
Offering the wisdom of a Franciscan friar whose varied career has included work as a college professor, preacher, spiritual director, teacher of spiritual directors, and more than a decade of missionary service in China, this book is compact, concise, and accessible. "Discernment is a cooperative venture of discovering my unique contribution—my evolving and deeper yes—to being a coworker with Christ in making God's dream of the kingdom a reality right here, right now" (7). Practical observations intertwine with scriptural references, effectively guiding the reader in making discernment not just an isolated practice, but a way of life.
Setting the stage with a chapter on "Ten Attitudes for Discernment", Haase advises, “Keep your ears to the ground and not in the clouds.” In other words, the heart of discernment rests in listening to the messy details of our lives, what Haase refers to as "the megaphone God uses to communicate with each of us" (31). Honoring our past, paying attention to hunches and intuition, the sensations of our bodies, our feelings, dreams, and our imaginations—all offer divine guidance in discovering who we are and what we're about if we listen carefully and prayerfully.
A chapter entitled "Discerning the Designs of the Devil" explores the Apostle Paul's list of fifteen “works of the flesh”, including fornication, impurity, licentiousness, quarrels, and factions, that mislead and distract us from God's purposes. “Our unique contribution to the kingdom of God becomes evident in our emerging and evolving yes. But we have an opponent who employs devious, deceptive, and divisive tactics that make us forget who we are and what we are made for” (65). To Paul's list, Haase adds spiritual indifference, referred to as “acedia” and “desolation” that “fogs our vision, drains our spiritual energy, cuts us off from relationships, and tries to draw us away from our contribution to God's kingdom” (78). Tools for gaining traction in the pitfalls of the spiritual journey are essential, and readers who resonate with traditional theological language will most appreciate the seasoned wisdom of this author’s counsel.
In Wrestling With God Haase identifies denial, delay, sabotage, and rebellion as four techniques we use to resist the action of divine grace in our lives. “Even astute and discerning people miss how they are arm wrestling and resisting God's invitation. Good discernment—and the entire spiritual adventure, for that matter—is never done alone. Having a spiritual director or spiritual companion to check in with on a consistent basis and discuss what’s going on spiritually is not only a wise decision but also of critical importance for spiritual growth and maturity” (88). That is sound advice for any seeker.
Reflection questions follow each chapter and prayers for discernment by notables such as Anselm of Canterbury, Francis of Assisi, and Mother Teresa, are included in an appendix. This book will be helpful for pastors and spiritual directors, and is suitable for encouraging small group discussion and sharing.
Amelia Stratton-Smith, MTS, is a spiritual director and Enneagram teacher in Rochester, New York. She is an ordained Elder and Deacon in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and received a Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction from San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, California, USA.