Like a Child
Think about yourself when you were a child, about five years old. When you were young, did you ever walk into a large building like a mall or airport and have absolutely no idea where to go without your parents telling you? They seemed to always know where to go (or at least that’s how I viewed my parents). But how did they know where to go??
As a child I just assumed they knew because they were my parents and I could count on them to lead me to the right place. Now, as a young adult, I have come to realize that their ability to navigate the huge environment was by wisdom, previous experiences, and an idea of the bigger picture. I’m very thankful to be the daughter of our heavenly Father who is immeasurably wise and created the bigger picture. Jesus experienced this world just like we do – He is trustworthy to guide me through.
Did your parents ever point out the signs that were helpful guides? It’s sometimes hard to find the signs that point me in the right direction when I enter an unfamiliar environment. As a young child, it was not until my mom or dad pointed it out to me with a head nod, hand gesture, or by observing their eye glances that I then saw the signs.
Over time, by gaining my own experiences navigating environments alongside my parents, I more easily identified the signs I needed to look for and gained a better idea of the procedures for going through, say, an airport. And quite often, I realize that after the environment becomes more familiar that the signs I needed were generally right in front of me. I believe that in the same way, our vision becomes more attune to Jesus’ signs as we become more familiar to his “voice”.
Navigating the slopes of life
I also think about memories of skiing with my family. We started skiing when I was less than 10, so I definitely ALWAYS wanted my dad to tell me which way to go when a split came in the ski run – I certainly didn’t want to go the wrong way! Because of this, if I was in front of my dad, I would stop when we got close to a fork in the run so that I could hear his instructions (or see him point his ski pole towards the direction).
I still do this when we go skiing, not necessarily because I don’t know which way to go (although sometimes I still don’t!) but because I want to stay close to my dad and sister so that we all end up going the same way. Ski resorts also have maps of the mountain runs, so while we are on the ski lift, we’ll often make a plan for the next run(s) we want to take so that we are all on the same page. Scripture provides God’s plan for us. Even if it does not tell us the specifics of our life milestones, it directs us into relationship with Father and provides guidelines towards what He created us to do.
What if I chose to communicate with only my dad and not my sister? She might go the wrong way if she was ahead or behind! When we are asking, listening, and responding by action to the directions that our Father gives us, let’s make sure our brothers and sisters around us can hear what He has to say, too. This occurs in godly relationships where you actively share your testimonies and revelations from the Lord – where you are safe to share and receive counsel on what the next steps are that He’s impressed upon you, as well as be able to encourage them in theirs.
Ideally, this is a two-way communication, just like when we are skiing and my sister has to call out to point out the slope we are going to next when I look like I’m headed the wrong way. Don’t think about this as behavior management; rather view it as opportunities to live in unified, godly community, building each other up by sharing your faith and being encouraged by the testimonies of others.
Is there only one right decision every time?
If you are familiar with ski resorts, you know that multiple ski slopes will lead to the same ski lift. Then there are certain slopes when there are trees in the middle of the run that make it seem like a fork, but we will all end up in the same place again after the brief grove. It is possible that there will be multiple opportunities that come in your life where it doesn’t matter which opportunity you pursue – as long as you slow down to make sure you are still focused on Jesus when the true fork comes.
I suppose you could all go separate ways and still get to the same destination at the bottom. Let me clarify – I am not suggesting syncretism (that all religious paths lead to the same eternity). In our spiritual journeys, there is only one way to God the Father – through Jesus Christ. But our journeys are varied and personal because Jesus did not create us with the exact same gifts and callings. Likewise, you may have to experience a situation multiple times to learn the lesson the Lord is teaching you, but eventually (hopefully) you’ll get there.
We need each other
Just because no one life journey is the same, does that mean we are to operate independently from each other? No! We are intended for relationship both with Jesus and with those around us. Others’ testimonies from similar experiences and counsel can potentially help reduce the number of times it takes to learn a lesson. I submit to you that being unified toward a common destination makes the journey even better.
Separating from others the entire trip isolates you. Wouldn’t you rather have the shared experiences of completing the same slopes together? Now, you don’t have to answer that…I know how family trips can go sometimes! But between my dad, sister, and I, we’ve come to a point where we care less about which slope we ski (apart from double-black diamond mogul runs, which we all agree is no way to ski); we just want to ski together.
Checking in or journeying together?
Now the question I want you to truly consider: Do you want to just meet God at life checkpoints, be it weekly church gatherings, or Christmas, or Easter? Or do you want to experience everything with Him, no matter if it’s the life trajectory or calling that you would have initially chosen for yourself?
What if Jesus only “checked-in” with the Father every once in a while. In John 12:49 (NIV), Jesus says “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken”. How could he speak what the Father says without being in close, constant contact with him? If there were only designated “checkpoints” (like Sunday service, or more accurately Saturday synagogue for Jesus), heavenly realities would be limited to those few hours. I don’t know about you, but Jesus brought heaven to earth WAY more often than a designated time slot in his schedule.
He was not limited by a personal agenda, which allowed a freedom to operate according to the promptings of the Father to speak Truth or minister to a broken friend (sibling, colleague, child, etc). Going back to the skiing illustration, if my dad, sister, and I stay together and in consistent communication, we can change the runs we take without limiting ourselves to a set “check-in” location and time and we are more free to just enjoy our time on the slopes (i.e. journey through life)!
Hearing and responding
Navigating an airport and skiing are earthly illustrations of a heavenly reality – God certainly knows and understands the bigger picture more than we ever could. This life is big and filled with unfamiliarity and can easily become overwhelming when trying to navigate on our own. Perhaps instead of trying to figure it all out by ourselves and potentially becoming lost, frustrated, or isolated, we can wait on the Lord to prompt us, to teach us by showing us the guiding signs, to go before/behind/beside us, and to guide us in our journey.
Jesus wants to be a part of our everyday life – this includes our commute to work, time at work, errands, church, social time (and dare I say relaxing time). Often I feel like I am not hearing Him – you may feel the same. It is likely that He is speaking to you but the noise of life is making it hard to hear Him. It may take some time to be able to identify God’s voice, and you probably won’t get it right every time, but how sweet it is to go through some of life’s mundane moments knowing that He is right there with you.
Can you, in this next week, prepare your heart to hear the impressions of the Lord. What do you hear Him speaking? Will you take the next step and respond? It doesn’t have to be a big miracle moment – it can be a response during the mundane. Faith is not a leap, it is a series of steps.
When you don’t hear from God
Let me add that I am speaking as much to myself as I am to you. I know that there are times when I have heard the Lord and not responded. There have also been many times when I feel like I’ve asked and asked to hear from the Lord (or could I say “give a sign”) and haven’t heard a peep. We can’t give up though! Keep leaning in because there will be opportunities for you to respond to the Holy Spirit, just maybe not in the way that you were expecting.
So, say those specific kind words to the cashier or the person at the bathroom sink next to you that just popped into your head. Change your daily routine when you feel impressed and see what opportunity the Lord provides for you to minister or be ministered to. Know that Jesus is there next to you, building your faith through small steps in your journey.
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