Have you ever requested a sign from God?
… and then when God gives you one find yourself saying: “yea, I’m not sure that’s actually good enough”?
I’m on a spiritual retreat this week at a Jesuit retreat house. So, quite appropriately, the retreat center has a marked path through the woods called the “Way of Ignatius Trail”. It’s about a mile walk through a stony path that rises and falls through the woods tracing the journey of Ignatius.
Not knowing how my body would handle this week, I decided to do the trail during the first quiet reflection time we had. Trekking through the quiet, quite chilly woods, I engaged with the questions I’d been given and waited to hear what God had to say about all I was carrying.
At some point, I felt God answer me with just a couple simple words spoken clear as day among the trees: “It’s time.”
Now God being God didn’t tell me what exactly it was time for, of course.
And me being me I instantly needed to make sure God was actually the one speaking instead of just me conversing with… well, myself.
I guess like Thomas I need a bit more concrete proof sometimes. So I said: “God, we will get to the vagueness of your statement later. But first, can you help me figure out if I am hearing your voice or mine?”
An important side note to this moment in the woods: I just showed my students a couple weeks ago the movie Stand by Me as part of a larger conversation on friendship- it’s a very boy movie so they loved it despite its 1987 cinematography. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, at one point in the movie, one of the young boys comes face to face, eye to eye really with a deer in the middle of the night in the woods. One could say for him it was potentially an encounter with the spirit of his brother who had died.
So, I asked my question to the quiet woods and then looked up to unexpectedly see three deer just over a small hill hanging out. Before that moment, I hadn’t seen any animals or insects or people at all.
Now, perhaps another kind of person would say “Thanks for the confirmation, God” while chuckling at God’s obvious sense of humor… but of course me being every bit myself said “Funny, God… but in the movie they were face to face. So if I come up the hill and the deer are waiting to look me in the eye…”
But of course, I came up the hill and the deer had appropriately not stuck around for my test.
What did I miss by not pausing to laugh and thank God for showing up in a way only I would understand?
What have we all missed time and again by continuing to demand the burning bush over the quiet whisper?