“Two Roads Diverged in a Wood”
Over the last couple of months, the county-wide Ministerial Alliance of which I am a part has been trying to figure out our next step.
The summer lunch program that had been a large part of our combined ministry for a number of years came to an end just over a year ago and now … well, we’re not sure what’s next.
We understand that this task is not a process of mere decision-making. Rather, we are attempting to hear God’s call to the Body of Christ in this place and at this time. Our focus is on God’s invitation to service rather than depending on our own ideas for bettering our community.
The theological word for that process is discernment.
At the most recent gathering of our group, we began to winnow some of the ideas on the table. Before our meeting was over, my favorite suggestion – the idea about which I was most passionate – had been cast aside.
I confess: I was disappointed. Not terribly, but noticeably.
The idea wasn’t dismissed because it didn’t have merit or because the others who were gathered didn’t have interest. In prayerful and careful consideration, the consensus of the group was that this idea did not seem to be the way in which we feel God is leading us.
Yes. I admit that it’s not an exact science. And none of us knows without a doubt that we are pursuing the proper path. But we pray and we listen and we trust and we follow.
And at every turn, there is a road not taken.
This week’s Ministerial Alliance meeting has me thinking about the faith journey:
How do any of us continue down the road we feel is truly the path to which God has called us, even when it means turning aside from other roads that appeal to us?
Does God call us to let go of our dream?
And, perhaps most importantly, how do we distinguish between the conviction that God is leading us … and the yearnings of our own hearts?
These are questions that I continue to wrestle with. But, in my wrestling, I take heart from these words of Thomas Merton (from Thoughts in Solitude):
O Lord God, I have no idea where I am going,
I do not see the road ahead of me,
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
And that fact that I think I am following Your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire to please You.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always
Though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
And You will never leave me to make my journey alone.
Amen, Brother Merton. Amen.