Surprise Packages
01 May 1990

That ongoing search for the Almighty's word of guidance becomes increasingly the most precious thing in my life, central to all I am and do - though no easier to discover.

It can be dangerous to claim - or even imply - that God speaks to you. For you may be put in the same category as the Idi Amins of life, the despots who have justified their horrendous crimes as being at the direction of `God'.

At the same time, it puts you in the company of Joan of Arc, for whom listening to `her voices' was definitely dangerous. And Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for whom responding to God's inner call meant embracing rotting people, cherishing dying outcasts. Infinitely dangerous! `Lord, I have heard your voice in the words of those whose personal agony mysteriously increases their selfless concern for other people,' Mother Teresa prays. And to pray is to listen: `In the silence of the heart, God speaks. And to be able to hear God, we need a clean heart, for a clean heart can see God, can hear God, can listen to God,' she says. `The essential thing is not what we say but what God says to us and through us.'

Yet, despite those terrible and wonderful dangers, that ongoing search for the Almighty's word of guidance becomes increasingly the most precious thing in my life, central to all I am and do - though no easier to discover.

Pivotal points
As I cast back across the tangled undergrowth and the occasional stirring vista of my few decades, I cannot claim the authority of God in all of it... or much of it. Yet I cherish the string of pivotal points given, it seemed, by a loving God of Truth. They came, most often, accompanied not by visionary zeal but more with sober recognition of God's will for that moment, that need in my life, which brought me willingly on to my knees.

It is one of those eternal paradoxes - you have to lose your life to find it. It has meant at times for me `the hard road of obedience'; and at others, a willing unrestrained response to a loving God.

God's best gifts come in surprise packages. Like the bright bubble of joy that became a running spring when I knew, just knew, that God had purposefully given me a love for a girl in Edinburgh whom I had not seen for years, and that she was to become my wife. And so she did; and is.

Grunts and tears and much sweat notwithstanding, together we have learned our simple daily need for `space for grace, and an attitude of gratitude'.

An old friend wrote recently that he saw no certainties. Yes indeed: 'stuckness' is often the precursor to real breakthroughs. But how important to search humbly, honestly for God's breakthroughs. And how sad not to. For only those who seek have any chance of finding; only those who listen are available to be spoken to; only those who do their best to obey will have any affirmation that they were on course.

It is a process of learning. As an ancient Jewish prophet experienced: `The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backwards. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught.'

So while I claim no certainty of God speaking to me, no commandments carved in stone nor basso voice echoing down the meditations of my mind, looking back I am gratefully aware that the hand of God was somehow in my uncertain efforts to do what I perceived he was asking of me. And it is in those daily times of prayerful search, when once again God's call is affirmed for me, that I have found whatever sense of inner direction and security I may possess.

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