Listening for instructions

Often, in my impatience, I have wondered why God does not tell me what He wants me to do.

This is particularly the case with those big life-direction kinds of decisions but it may be true in smaller day-to-day events as well.

I have never thought of God as the micro-managing type to tell us what we are supposed to do in each and every life situation. I confess that I used to think it a rather immature faith when I overheard others speak of praying for God’s will about what job to take or what school to attend. Were they not willing to make their own choices?

Perhaps this was the case for some people, wanting to be told what to do so that they wouldn’t get it wrong. The safe course. While a perspective that could benefit from some stretching, my own immaturity was equally evident in my judgment of them.

They, at least, were ready to be obedient. Was I? Quite probably not.

When I now find myself pondering similar questions, more often than not they come from a nagging sense that there is somewhere I am going but I do not know the destination. I want very much to go there and to make the trip with the One I love.

But it would be so much easier if He gave me the directions and told where to meet Him – instead of making me figure it out for myself. Why doesn’t He tell me these things?

One of the things that has become most clear to me is that God does not tell me what He wants because I seldom ask Him.

If I truly wish to please Him, why is it that I am not asking? Am I afraid that He will not answer? Or perhaps I will not like the answer that He gives?

Just the other day, I found myself mulling over a question in my mind: do I want to do this or do I want to do that? The interesting thing was that, in this particular situation, what I wanted should not have been a subject of interest at all. It wasn’t about me. But, out of habit, I was pondering the options as though it were.

And so I stopped and requested, “Help me to know what to do here, Lord.”

It is the beginning of a new habit. Sometimes in the early evening I become so tired that I feel unable to do anything. When this happens, I say, sometimes aloud, “I am so tired. What would you have me do, Jesus?” (Usually the answer is to get up out of my chair as a beginning.)

Already I have found this new habit yielding some fruitful results.

Perhaps the most important has been that I have been acknowledging that my life is not my own and have been putting it more and more into the hands of God.

Not too long ago, I read how my patron, St. Catherine of Genoa, received instructions in a mystical experience that she was no longer to speak of “I” but only of “we”, in reference to anything she did. No choice or decision was to be made apart from Christ.

How far I am from that! I can imagine that I entrust my life to God, but over and over, I discover the many ways in which I do not.

I am also finding that God does indeed answer. Now I know that these responses would be no proof to my agnostic and atheist friends. But I am beginning to understand that “answers” are not so much the specific instructions (“Do this!”) as they are the loving synergy of God directing and allowing things to occur in my life and my obedient acceptance of them.

It is a dance between the divine Lover and His little creature – He leads and I follow.

Not being an accomplished dancer myself, I know the feeling of being led by a skilled dancer who moves me through a graceful waltz. He does not do this by saying 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, repeatedly in my ear, but rather he simply presses my hand and gently guides with a hand to my waist.

And so it is with the Eternal God, the most accomplished Dancer of them all. He is so humble and gracious a God that He does not make me dance with Him. He waits for me to ask. But no sooner do I utter the words than He takes the lead.

Then it is up to me to follow. And a beautiful, joyous obedience this is.

A priceless thing…


(Reminder: God willing, this Wednesday, 2/10/16, marks the beginning of our online book reflection group at Hope to see you there!)

2 thoughts on “Listening for instructions

  1. albert

    “Usually the answer is to get up out of my chair as a beginning.” I wouldn’t encourage you to look for a better answer. In the Gospel stories, Jesus responds to importunings, the louder and
    more intense or unusual the better. But. . . (You think know what I was about to say, don’t you. Was it this?) He’s with us in a different way now. We can’t talk to Him the way the needy persons of the time did. Well, we CAN, and many advise that we do. I still try, but it begins to sound repetitious. Then hollow, to me anyway–can’t speak for God.

    But I have learned recently that the “hollowness” of traditional petitions, as in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy and Vespers, or in the Roman chantings of earlier days–these formal, group prayers seem to have a kind of power that inspires rather her than deflates. That is, the emotional content, the need, is still present but elevated by that very formality and even more so by the knowledge that persons all over the world are participating in that same vocalized prayer, using the very same words and intonation that have been used for centuries. And in a personal sense, it is no longer seen as self-centered because I see others around me with heads bowed who have similar needs and we share this ritual praying for each other. I leave feeling peaceful, though I know that my peace is not the purpose of prayer. On the other hand, after a late-night session of talking to God in my head and feeling uncomfortable about my gradual inner distance (the emotion, and thus the sincerity, usually gets interrupted and eventually replaced by distractions. “And the last state of that [mind/soul/spirit] is worse than the first,” or so it feels.)

    This is meant in no way as a challenge to you message, Mary. In fact, the post has inspired me to keep trying private prayer. Your writings so often inspire me. That’s why I can’t seem to curb my desire to tell you, even though in a far-too lengthy response. Probably far too “fomal” too. Instead of simply saying what’s in my heart, as you did above, and do in your prayers, I tend to carry on as if giving a little lecture. “Forgive me,” the Orthodox person would say. I’m not very Orthodox–committed, but selective about it– so I’ll just say thank you for your efforts and for your patience with persons (me) who spend time talking to another about themselves.

  2. mary Post author

    I always enjoy your comments, Al. Thanks once again. I like the fact that there are so many different ways that we can pray – the formal chanting with the whole church to the muttered “what would you have me do, Lord?” Even wanting to pray is a prayer of sorts. Maybe even wanting to want to. 🙂

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