Someone asked me the other day how I knew when God was telling me to do something specific, or to follow a certain path.
My answer was that, more often than not, I’m rarely fully sure. I have times when I think I know what God is saying, but it’s never 100% clear, and there’s always a part of me which worries that I’m just convincing myself that it is God’s voice rather than mine.
All in all, it’s a very confusing business.
Looking back, the times God has guided me haven’t been signposted by Damascene moments, accompanied by bright lights and a booming voice.
Instead, I can look behind me and see a series of doors which have opened for me, and some which have been closed. I see conversations with people, things I’ve heard at church and passages of Scripture all fall together into a path which I’ve followed, even though at the time I didn’t relise I was following it.
Rather than tell me from the start where I’m going, God instead seems to prefer leading me one step at a time.
The difficulty with this is that it results in a lot of uncertainty. For a lot of my journey, I don’t know where I’m going. But I think it’s partly so I remember God en route. If he was to tell me the path, tell me the destination and tell me the obstacles I’d encounter on the way, I wouldn’t need him as much. I might remember things he said, but I wouldn’t rely on him.
I’d rely on me.
By taking me through one door at a time, guiding me step by step, God teaches me to rely on him. Trust him. Follow him.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d love for him to speak louder sometimes.
But he knows what he’s doing.
Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back and home to bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring