Last Sunday we talked about how and why we pray for guidance. A number of us shared that we used to believe God had a fixed plan for our lives and guidance came in the shape of a road map, but that we had come to suspect things weren’t quite so straightforward and guidance was really more of a compass direction.
There are undoubtedly moments when God speaks quite clearly and quite insistently, and then we must choose whether or not to follow his lead. There are also moments when things slot into place a little too neatly to be mere coincidence, and then we must thank God for holding us and gently nudging us along. But much of the time God asks only that we live well, and then we must decide for ourselves what that means in our time and place.
In my own life God has only put his foot down once, and that was when it became clear that I had to stop being stubborn and afraid and start taking steps towards full time ministry. There have been plenty of other times when I have felt God’s hand on my life, such as my decision to tentatively return to church after some months away just as my now husband also returned to the same church at the start of his summer break from university. But for the most part God has been frustratingly hazy on the details, often giving me a number of options and then stepping back to let me choose between them.
A few years ago I was getting myself in a bit of a pickle trying to work out whether I should go away for a month to take part in a volunteer project or stay at home and take up a couple of opportunities at my home church. I was convinced that there was a right and a wrong choice, and I was desperate for God to tell me which was which, but then I went to a scratch night at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and saw a performance which included the lines I’m sick of leading you by the hand, I want you to decide. The guy who spoke those words will never know that he was a prophet for me that night, but they struck me instantly as a message from God and it is a message which still rings in my ears.
At the start of Sunday’s meeting, Lynne showed us this picture she had taken on a walk…
…and it seemed a perfect metaphor for the way in which we often experience God’s guidance. God sets us at a crossroads and says There are many paths to follow, so choose one and start walking. I won’t tell you where they will lead or what you will find along the way, because then they wouldn’t be so much of an adventure. But whichever one you choose, I will walk it with you.
Because the truth is that God’s guidance doesn’t end at the crossroads. He may not always tell us which path to take, but that doesn’t mean he won’t help us along the way. Once we’ve started walking, guidance can come in the form of a conversation between fellow travelers. God wants to walk with us, and that is so much more exciting than being given a map and told to see them on the other side.
We ended Sunday night with the Examen, which is a way of prayerfully reflecting on the day, asking God to bring to mind what is most important. It may not give us answers to specific questions, but it does help up build the kind of relationship in which we recognise the voice and the prompting and the presence of God, and so it is a great foundation for guidance in all its forms. It’s also a wonderful way of settling our thoughts at the end of a day and keeping a point of contact with God. You’ll find a short video which leads you through Examen on the ‘Good Stuff’ page of the website.