Faithfully Following a Leading
You know how it used to be when you were going on a road trip, or even now, maybe when you’re hiking a trail? You pull out a folded map, find your starting point, your destination, and then chart the path you intend to go. You know you will likely encounter detours, inadequate signage, and the like, but with your map, you feel confident you will move forward at a reliable pace.
When we are planning a trip, the big picture is usually fairly clear: We note point A and point B, and identify a route in between. When God gives us a leading though, the situation may be very different. Sure, sometimes what we’re given is the knowledge that point B is our destination, and how we get there is left to us. But I’ve found that often I’m being directed by my Inner Guide, which I call “the Divine GPS.”
The Divine GPS is one of my ways of understanding God. My relationship with the Divine GPS is all about faith. I’m given a leading to do something. I have a sense that there is a destination but don’t know where it is or what will happen when I get there. What I’m given is step 1, which is like the first segment on a global positioning system. I see one tiny slice of an unknown larger trip, and all I have to do is faithfully get from where I am to the edge of the screen. When I get to that edge, I’m given step 2. Complete that, and I get step 3, and so on.
Photo by Aubrey Odom Mabey on Unsplash
At times, I’ve found myself spinning my wheels, stuck, or broken down. Doh, I forgot about my Guide’s reliable presence! I forgot that this journey is not about me!
Sometimes I take a wrong turn or need to make a pitstop. The Divine GPS has a calm voice and never gets impatient. I hear a soothing “recalculating, recalculating,” and trust that our connection remains strong as I drive around trying to find a decent place for a vegetarian meal. Sometimes what happens in the off-ramps becomes an integral part of the journey, like a side quest in a video game providing a tool that is useful later. The key to this, however, is that I have to make everything I acquire, everything I do, and everything I am on this journey available to God. If I make any part of the trip about me, I’m not being faithful. When I do anyway, I again hear “recalculating” and know to refocus my attention. When I’m in a centered, open state, Spirit and I work well together. When I trust that everything necessary will be available to me, I don’t need to worry, cling, or hoard but can allow the energy of resources and ideas and love to flow through me, arriving for me to use and share just when they are needed.
It has been really hard for me to learn this, as I’m a borderline hoarder. Trusting that resources will be available when I need them, and not stockpiling “just in case,” is an ongoing lesson.
Sometimes on a journey, I’ll get an idea of the destination to which I am headed and begin to think I know a better route. In my desire to be helpful, I forget to trust my Divine GPS to guide me. My will takes over the navigation, and I start choosing roads that I think are quicker or will avoid heavy traffic. Efficiency and a self-created estimated time of arrival pull me out of living in God’s time where everything I need is available, and I begin to worry about the clothes I packed and where I’ll sleep tonight. When I do this, I don’t heed the “recalculating” message, so Spirit has to be a bit more dramatic to get my attention. At times, I’ve found myself spinning my wheels, stuck, or broken down. Doh, I forgot about my Guide’s reliable presence! I forgot that this journey is not about me! My Divine GPS is gracefully forgiving of my headstrong ways and eternally willing to help me get back on track.
Maybe Spirit shows up for me as the Divine GPS because my ego can only relinquish control in small steps at this point in my life. But as I learn to live with Christ as my center, I understand increasingly clearly that everything I am—even my very ego—is from God.
Have I made it clear that these journeys I’m talking about are not literal? This is a metaphor to describe how stepping into the faithfulness of following a leading often feels to me. If one’s leading is to travel in ministry, the leadings may be actual journeys, but so far in my life, the particular work of traveling in ministry has not been given to me. For instance, being the facilitator of the Faithful Meetings program for the School of the Spirit and conducting the opening retreats at Friends meetinghouses requires a great deal of travel, but the travel itself is not the leading, just one small segment of a much larger trip.
Another thing I must note is my human desire to understand why: I want to know the big picture and how all the parts fit together. When I’m given a leading, I really want to know the purpose of this curious thing I’m being given to do; I want it to make sense to me. I want my own knowledge and experience to sign off on it, so I can plan what I need to bring and how I want to show up. When Spirit is guiding me though, I have to completely release attachment to understanding the purpose and the outcome, or learning about the impact I had.
Insisting on knowing why limits the ways I make myself available for God to work through me. What I want is to show up as my most polished self, whereas God may see this flaw or that foible in me as the exact right crack for the Light to shine through. I am learning to trust that when God invites me on a journey, it is because I—with all my fumbling, cheerful, hard-headed imperfection—am perfect to do this thing in this moment. What makes me perfect is simply the fact that God wants me to do it. It is humbling to consider and accept but freeing, too. I don’t have to strive to be anything more than exactly what I am right now and can just make myself available for the Holy Spirit to work through.
As Friend Isaac Penington said in 1661:
be no more than God hath made thee. Give over thine own willing; give over thine own running; give over thine own desiring to know or to be any thing, and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee, and be in thee, and breathe in thee, and act in thee, and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that, and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of life, which is his portion.
To let go of my sense of control is hard, hard work. I have to step into the journey with complete trust that whatever happens is always for the Good. Maybe Spirit shows up for me as the Divine GPS because my ego can only relinquish control in small steps at this point in my life. But as I learn to live with Christ as my center, I understand increasingly clearly that everything I am—even my very ego—is from God. With each step in this journey, I discover more truly that my destination is always the One who is guiding me.