The Subtlety of Discernment

IMG_1775 2
Dame’s Rocket


Along the roadsides in our area there are several beautiful flowers growing in abundance. They brighten my days as I travel up and down the roadways. They look inviting and I have been thinking of finding a time to stop and create a wildflower bouquet, but I really was interested in what their names were.


I knew exactly who would know.


I have a good friend whom I got to know when we were both tutoring in a local school some years ago. She was a biology major and had a keen eye and knowledge about nearly anything and everything in nature. I have fond memories of taking some hikes with her in nature areas near us, hearing her name nearly every tree, plant, and flower that we passed. Sadly, I don’t recall most of the names save one, Trillium, Ohio’s state wildflower, which brightens the woods and hillsides in the spring.


I connected with her to ask about these two lovely flowering plants I have seen such a plethora of. One had an abundance of purple, lavender and white blooms. I thought that one might be phlox. The other looked a bit like Queen Anne’s Lace, but the blooms were smaller and arranged differently on their stems.


Within a few minutes, she responded with the information, as I knew she would. The varieties of purple blooms were not phlox, but do look similar except for the number of petals on each flower. She told me that these known as Dame’s Rockets (hesperis matronalis) are what she called “invasive aliens”. They are a part of the mustard family.


The second flowering plant that looked like Queen Anne’s Lace was actually Poison Hemlock (conium maculatum), member of the parsley family.

IMG_1774 2
Poison Hemlock


Despite their lovely appearance, she warned me that the plant is toxic posing a health risk to anyone or anything that might have close contact with it. They are masters of disguise and appear like many other harmless plants. All parts of the plant are poisonous and should not be touched. They comprise the fourth most common cause of nationwide poisoning, more than 100,000 reports to poison control centers. Area farmers have great concern about the risk to livestock as the plants are multiplying rapidly.


I was so glad to learn the truth about both plants from someone with the knowledge and discernment to recognize each of them accurately for what they are. It reminded me of the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30.


Many times it can be very difficult to discern whether something we see is good or harmful.


 It is very important for us to learn and know the difference in not only things like plants, berries, trees, and the like, but also to recognize other choices that are good or harmful as well.


What gets in the way of our discernment is not simply whether or not we see that as one of our giftings.


We have a lot of information and experiences coming into our knowledge base. Some of it is accurate. Some of it is true. But not all of it is true or accurate.


All of these data points are swirling in our thoughts and reactions creating a logjam that hinders our power of discernment.


All these unfiltered data points affect our ideas, judgments, and responses. Never is this truer than in my relationships with others.


 Added together, these can create mistrust, fear, and suspicion creating false judgments and discernment causing our hearts to be harsh and sometimes fill with criticism, resentment, and bitterness. They distort our perception.


Since our perceptions have great influence on us, this can be dangerous or even deadly for us. They hinder our capacity to love and without love and peace in our hearts our judgments on others will be harsh and most often false.


I love what Francis Frangipane says about discernment:


Discernment comes from abounding love. What is abounding love? It is love that leaps out from us toward others. It is motivated by long-term commitment; it is anointed by sacrificial charity. True discernment is rooted deeply in love.”


 He also indicates that such false discernment has coldness to it that might on the surface appear to be packaged as love (cold love), but really comes from criticism.


So, how can we discern rightly?


First and foremost, we must seek the Lord, quieting our hearts so we can truly listen and focus on what He is saying to us. This is foundational to wise discernment and righteous judgments. It is also hard to accomplish. We can be so impatient and want to respond, defend, react, set right, or fix.


Secondly, we need to keep in mind that how we perceive life is always based on the condition of our hearts. If our hearts are not right, we must not assume we have accurate discernment with, toward, or about anyone.


When I wanted to learn about two plants, what they were and if they were good, I did not assume I knew. I went to someone who did.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.   Proverbs 3:5-6






12 thoughts on “The Subtlety of Discernment

  1. What a beautiful message on discernment. And thanks for the wildflower information. I travel with hubby and his job. I take tons of photos of wildflowers and am always thinking the same as you, I need to make a wildflower bouquet! Yikes! Glad I now know not to pick those! Thank you!

  2. What a beautiful story to prove your point, Pam: “I did not assume I knew. I went to someone who did.” Amen. May we all be humble enough to do likewise! There’s so much that we don’t know, but someone else might.

  3. I always tell people to let the Holy Spirit help you learn to discern. It has helped me tremendously, I have to let go of certain things, and even trying to help people who really don’t want to know about Jesus, just taking advantage, so my priority has to be who does need my help.

  4. Nice article! My 4-year-old is very interested in plants, easily learns their names, and if we can’t tell her makes up a name! I will be on the lookout for poison hemlock so we don’t touch it or let it grow in our yard.

    1. Thanks so much! I love that interest in your 4 year old (as a former teacher especially). So glad this post might prove helpful in safeguarding your family. Have a great weekend!😊

  5. Great post Pam, i agree our perceptions can become so clouded depending on the lense we view things, people, situations through.
    It is wise to have that special quiet time with the Lord for His discernment & see through His lenses rather than our own, at whatever we are dealing with in each day.

    So glad you didn’t pick a bunch & take them into your home! There is a powerful message in that too!
    Thank you, ♡

    1. Thank you! I was glad I didn’t pick a bunch of those “flowers” and bring them home also. (You’re right about the powerful message in that as well.) ❤️

  6. I think discernment is one of the best gifts – and those who don’t have it can glean bits of it from asking God for wisdom, as He says. I wonder if discerning always stems from love – that’s an interesting quote. Thanks, Pam

    1. I think you’re right about discernment. We all need a healthy dose every day. I think Francis Frangipane is speaking of in this quote is Christ’s love and recalling that “God is Love” and He is the source of all discernment and wisdom. This would be no ordinary, common love as we often see it modeled today. 💕

Leave a Reply