The last two Thursdays in May found me at Sky Lake Retreat Center in Windsor, NY, co-leading clergy and lay retreats on the theme of “Spring Forth”. Our focus scripture was from Isaiah 43:18-20, using The Message translation:
Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
—the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
rivers through the sunbaked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose…
Be alert. Be present. God is about to do something brand new – don’t you see it? God is making a road through the desert, God is sending water to make a river in the badlands. Don’t you see it?
Sometimes it can feel really hard to see what God is up to. Sometimes, the road before us is clear, like the wide trail around the lake at the retreat center. And sometimes, it seems more obscure – like a little used trail in the woods where you have to stay alert and look for the next tree with a faded marker on it or the faint trace of a path underfoot. Sometimes it feels like the fog has rolled in and it’s hard to see the way forward. At those times, all we can do is look for the next step, the next sign, and then the next, and then the next.
Sometimes we are looking for dramatic signs and wonders – like the tongues of fire raining down on Pentecost, or a vivid dream, or a wide open door, or chills down our spine when we read or hear something. And sometimes God does speak to us with dramatic signs. And sometimes, we are so busy searching for signs and wonders that we miss what’s right in front of us – the urge to contact someone, or find out more about something, or look at what how we’ve been choosing to spend our spare time tells us about where God may be calling us.
Sometimes, the seed of what will spring forth is still germinating underground, and we can’t see it yet.
But always, ALWAYS, the Holy Spirit is with us, nudging us along or inviting us to choose where to head next or telling us, gently, to wait just a bit longer.
So yes, be alert. Be present. Notice possible clues and nudges as your day unfolds. But there is no need to grasp or strain. Be relaxed. Rest in the assurance that God will make the way clear to you, in God’s time.