Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
The LORD replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?’
Have you ever been at sea, with no land in sight? A seemingly endless expanse of water stretches before you and behind. It is easy to lose your bearings.
The third phase of transition, disorientation, is like that. It has the potential to be both difficult and fruitful. The familiar landmarks have gone, and the new ones are not clearly in focus. Our inner questions show our longing for certainty and control: ‘How long?’, ‘Where is it all leading?’, ‘How do I plan?’, or ’Why am I feeling like this?’ During the current pandemic, these questions are echoed in the media and reverberate in conversations with friends and colleagues.
God does not commit to answer our questions, but instead he promises us his presence. Aside from anything else, this promise marks us out as his people and orientates us in a time of disorientation. As Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness, God’s presence, visible as the pillar of cloud and fire, determined the route and the pace.
As believers we are marked with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). As the cloud and fire guaranteed God’s presence with the people in the wilderness, so the Spirit is the powerful, personal presence of the living God with us. By his Spirit, God guides, comforts, strengthens, and equips us. That guidance is rarely a detailed map with a marked route – it is more often a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105), showing us the next step. Obedience to that step then leads to a further step or pause.
Prayer, together with regular reading of the Scriptures, is vital if we are to discern the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God wants to guide us. Following him is not meant to be a guessing game! His intention is that we should hear his voice; our part is to make the time and space to listen. Prayer practices like the Examen can help us do this, where we prayerfully reflect on the past day or week. Looking in the rear-view mirror allows us to acknowledge God’s presence with us.
Gradually, as we are guided through this phase of disorientation, we notice our focus shifting from arrival at a destination to how we journey; from achievement to purpose; from status to identity. As Henri Nouwen notes, ‘Our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus, our friend and finest guide’. And so let our confidence be in the one who journeys with us.
Prayer Journeys Project Leader, LICC