The Still Small Voice

The Power of Discernment: The 'Brandle Factor'


Chapter Six, Part Five


The ‘Brandle Factor’

Even in the utmost prosperity, the advice of friends is to be very greatly employed. (Cicero)
Do not speak too quickly against things you do not understand. (Anon)

Shortly before we were due to take charge of a lively six-week old collie-spaniel puppy called Brandle, people came to us from all directions warning us that we would find it too hard. After a lot of thought and prayer we decided to go ahead anyway. Fifteen lively years with Brandle brought many hairy moments – in every sense of the word – but much love and comfort too.

Whenever we are on the point of pushing out the boat to attempt something new, we almost invariably receive a barrage of suggestions to take the opposite course of action. We have nicknamed these well intentioned but decidedly discouraging comments ‘The Brandle Factor.’

Does the fact that we receive contradictory guidance imply that we should give up consulting others before we take important steps? By no means. Scripture is emphatic that ‘For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.’ It is only realistic, however, to accept the fact that not everyone will agree with us, even when we have heard truly. The way of the cross sometimes sets us on a course that others – even those we love dearly – will find it difficult to follow us on.

It is a difficult balancing act to remain open to counsel, without being unduly swayed by when the Lord really is leading us in another direction. On the assumption that it is more important to be on track with the Lord’s purposes than to be well thought of by others, may we, with great humility – and some diffidence – suggest adopting the following principle at such times: ‘If the Lord is calling you forward, focus on the Shepherd. If you look over your shoulder to see who is following you, you will get a crick in the neck!’

It helps if we can make allowance for people’s upbringing or experience, and realize the extent to which it may incline them to reject something as being God’s leading. Most of us, after all, have learned to make mental additions or subtractions when reading certain newspapers according to their political leanings. But may we always be open to discern the authentic accents of the Lord’s leading or warnings!

The pain is much greater when our differences are with like-minded people. Paul must have faced the ‘Brandle Factor’ in spades when he felt compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, even though his fellow believers pleaded with him not to do so.

Back in the 1996 the Lord showed us that the time had come for us to take possession of the large country house He had been telling us for some time that we would one day live in. After some months of searching, we realized that the only way we were going to be able to buy such a property was to do so jointly with my parents. This was when the Brandle Factor cut in, with numerous friends warning us not to go ahead on this basis.

The best and kindest way to view apparently contradictory guidance is to realize that people may be glimpsing how difficult certain aspects of a calling may prove to be. That is entirely different, however, from a project being either wrong or doomed to failure. To hold back from following the Spirit’s leading just because there will be difficulties along the way is not an option – not least because it would prevent the Lord from fulfilling many of His purposes.

As things turned out, the Lord used our six year sojourn in the house in really special ways – including the hosting of numerous precious retreats – before the call of the Lord whisked us north to Shetland and then, more recently, south again.

For Reflection and Prayer

Lord, help us to tell the difference between Your
restraining hand, and people’s negative comments –

and between Your still small voice
and fleshly counterfeits and compulsions!