Part One: An introduction
“Am in Market Harborough. Where ought I to be?” (GK Chesterton in a telegram to his wife)
A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15)
Whilst some matters are simple and clear-cut: ‘God says it, I believe it, and that settles it,’ others require more pinning down, tracking and identifying. To pinpoint is “to identify, discover, determine, distinguish, locate, detect, track down, spot, diagnose, recognise, pick out, home in on, and put one’s finger on. What, after all, is discernment but the ability to distinguish between two things, and to perceive the difference between them?
The Greek poet Hesiod claimed that ‘The noblest man can tell at a glance what it is best and right to do.’ This indeed is precisely what Jesus did because He had trained His spirit to look to His Father in everything, and had learnt to distinguish between good and evil in every situation.
As more and more people struggle to cope with exceptionally demanding circumstances, it is going to be crucial that we set our hearts to engage with the Holy Spirit, and find ways to explore the spiritual forces that are at work at this time, whether in our everyday life, our political outlook, our churching or in our culture.
There are many occasions in life when we need to wait for circumstances to line up before we can be sure we have found the best path forward – and it is these ‘in-between waiting times’ which often require much prayer as we weigh up possibilities and ponder.
Pondering times offer us the opportunity to gather information, and this is where ‘triangulation’ comes in. It means using data from multiple sources so as to ‘illuminate, confirm, or dispute what you learned from an initial analysis of one piece of data.’ (Clare Landrigan)
We are blessed to live in Malvern, which is one of the places where radar was originally developed. One of the great advances made during the course of the Second World War was the ability to use even a slight difference between measurements in order to pinpoint a signal and to determine the direction of a radio source. These early radar devices, which were able to locate the direction of a radio source, were known as Radio Direction Finders (RDF).
In spiritual terms we need to be able to isolate and identify that which is authentic (and most important) from the huge number of impulses our sensors are picking up – ‘testing and proving all things until we can recognise what is good, and then holding fast to that.’ (1 Thess. 5:21 AmpC)
Sometimes, this will mean we see things differently from others. After all, they do not stand in precisely the same spot that we do – it is perfectly normal and appropriate to have a different perspective on a matter! But that difference may at times mean that we do not do what others expect us to do – and that will certainly challenge both them and us from time to time. How much better, though, to be thus challenged than to forge ahead with something that is second best – or to surround ourselves only with people who think and see just as we do, and who are sure to confirm our point of view, rather than provoking us to look at matters from several angles.
Time and again I find it enormously beneficial as a writer to submit my material to others prior to publishing. I am nearly always immensely grateful for their comments and revisions, even if I cannot incorporate all of their suggestions. Iron sharpens iron, and we are wise to take the opportunity to sharpen our contributions in these ways.
Most of my wrong choices in life and work have come about when I have acted without a broad enough appreciation of the different aspects of a matter. Even when we feel something particularly strongly, wisdom may lie in being wary of moving ahead without consulting others – especially if the action involves major change. Genuine ‘triangulation’ is of incomparable value in helping us make wise choices.
Lord Jesus, please will You keep us from presuming we know what to do when we have decisions to make. Encircle us with Your wisdom and Your leading, we pray. Amen.