On Discernment and Misrecognition: The Tortoise Beats the Hare??

cecil turtle

The beloved Cecil Turtle!

I was thinking about spiritual discernment this morning and a wonderful insight shared by some good friends about how sometimes we don’t see or hear things quite accurately, like thinking that a voice is coming from behind us rather than in front.

This picture is from one of my all-time favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons, Tortoise Beats Hare. Bugs’ most insightful director, the incomparable Chuck Jones,  is one of the great spiritual geniuses of our time 🙂 and I find it rather amusing that he reportedly hated this particular episode directed by Tex Avery because he thought it made Bugs unrecognizable. But ain’t that the truth about our own spiritual condition sometimes– it happens that we see something rather different or even unrecognizable about ourselves when we look in the spiritual mirror of prayer (James 1:22-26)? Perhaps we are, as Paul puts it, being made new!

Anyway, watching this classic again  reminds me of how sometimes when we see certain objects in the distance they appear to be moving very slowly but in fact they’re moving much more quickly than we can anticipate. And of course the vice versa is also true. It’s only when we get closer to the point of meeting that we see things are moving very differently than we had imagined. Like Desperados waiting for a train,  we find we may not be able to catch on to the fast moving boxcar like we had thought. Best to regroup and wait for another to come by that is moving our speed. 

Discernment is like this, and it means we must stick with it until the moment things come into focus and we sense the scene has reached a fitting resolution at least for the time being. Because our thoughts are not God’s thoughts, nor our spiritual eyes and ears perfectly keen, we can expect misrecognition to happen. This is rarely anyone’s fault as I often need to remind folks I am working with in spiritual direction. And we do not always know ourselves, never mind others, as well as we thought, and God can be doing something deep in our hearts about which we may at the moment be only dimly aware. 

Discernment means recognizing this reality and not getting misled by the optics or too frustrated by our lack of clarity. And of course it does no good to beat ourselves up for feeling frustrated or confused either! Disappointment is only natural, as long as we remember the great Book of Common Prayer thanksgiving prayer that we take “disappointment and failure not as a measure of our worth, but as a chance for a new start.”

As for me, I’m still not sure whether I am more of a tortoise or more of a hair at this moment in my life. Actually no “hair” at all. 🙂 Thanks Siri for your fruitful  voice misrecognition 🙂

mt baldy

Mt. Baldy–inside of which turtles and rabbits run free

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