As I have come to know myself over the years, I know that when I think of someone or something intermittently over a period of time, that is a sign that I need to stop what I am doing, pick up the phone, open the email or get a card and a stamp – whatever seems right – and make contact. I am surprised at how often this happens. And when I follow through, invariably the reconnecting is significant in some way. So I guess the point is, it seems important to listen to one’s inner promptings. Come to think of it, the “prompting” may not be inner; it can be outer, as well!
Not long ago a friend mentioned a book to me that she thought I would find interesting. A week or two passed and I received something in the mail from another source – speaking about the value of this book. Walking down the street the other day, a parishioner stopped me to speak enthusiastically about the same book. Now I know I have to go out and buy that book!
All of us have similar experiences – signs of one sort or another that point us to some issue, person or place. Do you suppose such experiences can be chalked up to happenstance, serendipity? Perhaps once in a while; but I am more inclined to think that God’s loving Spirit moves through our lives and pokes us – sometimes in the most unlikely ways and places. God has a plan! The plan is totally unique for each of us in our own lives and, yet, the plan has the same end for all of us. God wants for each of us an ever deeper more intimate relationship.
There is a wonderful theological teaching: Grace works through nature. God is always at work in our world and lives – and signs of God’s Spirit appear in countless ways. The popular word for trying to figure out where God is working is “discernment”. To discern is a process of reflection, or pondering and, sometimes, of conversation with a trusted advisor in order to identify God’s hand in some moment or event. A person seeks to discern God’s will – what does God want for me, in this place, at this time … Now this is not an exact science, for everything has to be filtered through our own eyes and experiences, our own thoughts, desires, hopes and fears.
Prayer and trust are at the foundation of discernment. Praying for God’s help is the first part; expecting God’s response is the second part. Discernment requires both movements. I find the first part – praying for God’s guidance – to be easy. However, once the prayer is made, having a child-like confidence that God hears the prayer and from that moment on, the matter is in God’s hands and I can trust that – ahh – that is another matter!
Finally it seems to me that God is eager to give us signs: signs of love, caring, forgiveness, direction and of God’s very presence in the world and in our lives. Look for the signs – be amazed.