No signpost

What do you do when you reach a fork in the road and there is no signpost to show you where to go?

Don’t we all face that at some point in our lives – in our families, in our careers, or in our faith journeys?

I have been thinking of that as I have the leisure now to consider the next step in my own walk with Christ.

Typically, in the hurly-burly of my earlier years, I made rapid decisions, largely based on my own evaluation of circumstances and opportunities.  In the big issues, I prayed to God, but with my own opinions as to what was best for me – and possibly others.

But Jan Johnson offers another approach in her book The Soul That Listens.  Her book is sub-titled “Finding rest and direction in contemplative prayer” and that is a good summary line of what she is talking about.

Like most of us, Johnson’s prayer life used to be largely about requests to the Lord.  She notes there is nothing wrong with making requests – indeed, Christ urges us to approach God with our needs.

But now she focuses on seeking God for himself in silent prayer – often called contemplative prayer.

She opens her book with a story of a man on a committee she led who had disrupted a committee meeting.  He was belligerent, insisting on his way so that the committee was polarized – him against all the others.

After the meeting, she sat in her car waiting for her son and started praying for this man.  She prayed angry prayers – in effect, asking God to make him see things her way.

Then, she thought: “Wow, who do I think I am – judging this man and telling God what to do?”

Then, she took a few deep breaths, opened her hands – palm upward – and silently told the Lord: “He is yours, God.  I leave him to you.”

Then, in silence, she said: “More of Jesus, less of me.”

Now, she felt calmer and started enjoying the summer evening air.  She was ready to ponder what God’s will might be for that man.

Now, she asked God: “What do I need to know about this man?”  She repeated a favourite “breath prayer” of hers – asking God to show her this person’s heart.

Her son jumped into her car and, on the way home, told her that this person had fought in Vietnam.  He had felt helpless with no control over his life.  She also knew he had lost his job at a large firm and had a difficult son.

As she questioned God about this person, asking the Lord what she needed to know.  She then realized that he had no control over his life and over his son.

That led to a decision to give him control over a small part of the project the committee was working on while the committee handled the rest.  The project worked out well for the committee and this man.

The lesson for me is that I need to pursue an ever closer relationship with God above all.  I need to pray John the Baptist’s words on seeing Jesus: “More of Jesus, less of me.”

She quotes a question asked by Peter Lord in his book Hearing God: “If God gave you nothing but himself, would you be satisfied?”

That’s a life-altering question.  Am I so focused on my own ideas of what I need and want that I would choose something else rather than an intimate relationship with God?

The answer to finding my way when there is no signpost in the road is to choose God as my guide and abandon myself to him.

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