So it looks like I've boxed myself into a corner with this Lent Project thing. Remember how I said I was going to write 12 blog posts over the course of Lent? Well... now there's a week left to Easter, and I'm about to write my seventh post, which means, yes indeed, I'm supposed to be writing 6 posts over Holy Week. Aargh. I can do this! Here goes!
I've been reading a book called 'Is That Really You, God? An Adventure in Hearing and Obeying the Voice of God' by Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With a Mission. It's a pretty cool book, especially since to a large extent, I have learned that yes, God really does communicate with and guide those who are seeking to hear His voice. Most of the major decisions of my life I've made after directly asking God's guidance, and He has shown me in different ways what and how and where and even when He is asking me to do.
Over the years though, my natural skepticism as well as awareness of human weakness and the the human tendency to self- deception has made me slightly wary of general 'God told me to do this' statements. Oh, God told you to pamper yourself regularly, because you 'deserve it'? Oh, God told you to burn a Koran, because that will convince people of the truth of your religion? Oh, God told you to leave the Catholic Church and just be spiritual, not religious, and feel like you're a good person without any discipline or expectations? Oh, God hasn't told you directly to help the poor, so you're waiting for a a sign? Oh, God hasn't directly told you what to do with your life, so you're not doing anything? Hmm.. I don't know.
But in being awareness of human weakness, it's easy to forget that God DOES speak, does want to us to seek him, and wants to guide us in the decisions we make for our lives. And when I forget that, I stop hearing Him as clearly, because I don't believe He can speak louder than the loud voices inside my head.
Funny story (that I may have told before): I once was praying about hearing God more clearly, and was aware that I didn't stop talking long enough for Him to speak. So I said. "Okay God, I'm ready to hear You speak. I'll be quiet now." After a few moments of silence, the voice in my head said. "Testing, testing, 1.. 2..3..." and I burst out laughing. My subconscious won't give God a chance.
Anyway, today as I prayed, I read:
'Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned my back.'
'Christ Jesus.. humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.'
I felt like the Lord was reminding me about the connection between humility and guidance. When I'm so full of myself, my ideas, my opinions, my plans, my desires, God doesn't have room to speak.
'Even though you have been given a good mind to use, right now you want to hear the thoughts of the Lord, who has the best mind.' Excerpt from 'Is That Really You, God?'
A sharp, clear, creative mind is such a gift from the Lord, and yet it is not enough. When that is all I rely on, then I have a feeling of accomplishment, of 'Look what I've done', and yet it is always far less than if I had let Him do His thing, and said at the end 'Look what God has done!' Anyway, as usual I love to reflect on the practicalities of humility, which is so beautiful and yet so elusive.
So I asked: 'How do you want me to be humble, Lord?'
- 'I need to let myself be challenged without taking immediate offence.' Fr. Cantalamessa in Sober Intoxication of the Holy Spirit. Even when I'm pretty sure I'm right, I need to listen to the other person, take time before responding, and allow the Lord to speak into the issue.
- Not feel the need to convince or persuade people to what I believe is the truth, but trusting that if I am right, and I am speaking his truth, He will be the one to convince them in time. And if I am wrong, He will convince me instead!
- Being a little slower to express my opinions about everything.. with people, and with the Lord, in prayer.
- Having a listening, open spirit- asking people questions about their experiences and stories, rather than only sharing MY experiences and stories. And then really listening.
- Not assuming that my first reaction to a new idea is the right one. Allowing myself to feel it, and then bringing it to the Lord.
- Being open to an Option C, even if I'm asking the Lord to guide me between Option A and Option B. I feel like He often says "Allow me to surprise you!"
- Let others replace me, do not hold on to tightly to any role, or plan, or project, or person.
- Be at peace with both criticism and praise, attention or invisibility, as long as I am being obedient.
- And NEVER think you're done.