A burning bush. Angels flying down from the clouds. Being swallowed by a whale alive and spat back out onto the shore of where you should be. A big booming voice from the sky that says clearly and distinctly: “Erin, you should (fill in the blank) thus saith the Lord!”
It doesn’t have to be unique or elaborate, the old tricks would suite me just fine. It’s doesn’t even have to be Biblical, I’d take it. A little cricket that follows me around telling me what to do, a fairy Godmother that “poof!” appears and gives me some guidance; I’d even take a clearly written fortune from a fortune cookie at my local Chinese carry out. Do I ask too much?
I would take anything that would just tell me, with clarity, what it is I am meant to do with my life.
Granted I do get a lot of good signs along the way from my community of support saying “Keep on going” and “Don’t stop” but I guess I am being picky because I want something more. I want a Moses moment.
Moses may have felt like his calling was terrible and burdensome, and sure going up against Pharaoh would have been a bit daunting, but at least it was clear for crying out loud! (Literally). Moses didn’t have to sit around and wonder for years how he was supposed to spend his life. He didn’t even have to pray to God asking over and over and over again for God to send him a sign.
Many of my friends remind me that a Moses moment would be too cliche to really gain any insight from. “Besides Erin, do you really want that much clarity?” They are right, the biggest problem with a Moses moment is that I would really have no choice but to do what the bush tells me to do. Moses was just hanging out, minding his own business and then his whole world turned upside down.
Do I really want clarity or do I want a choice?
During one of my many discernment meetings a friend asked, “Erin…What if God doesn’t really care what you do?”
The thought had never really occurred to me. I don’t think I am an egotistical person but something about that question made me feel dumbfounded that God might not have this elaborate plan for my life. But it also made me feel a little relieved. I just laughed, “I guess it’s my choice then.”
A choice. I can choose anything I want. God gives us this gift, we have the freedom to choose how we want to live our life, at least to some extent. This notion that I have the freedom to choose is liberating because I can do whatever I really want, as long as it meets some guidelines I have developed for myself over the years.
What’s daunting? I could do a whole series of different jobs based on my guidelines. Too many choices can be a dizzying mountain to climb. And with all the choices I have been given I find myself here: In seminary, writing, doing field education in the Church, doing work in the faith based non profit sector and along the way I have had not a single burning bush.
So I am here for many reasons. God has something to do with it, but so does the way I was raised, my community and my life experiences. All of it has had its turn in paving the road I currently walk and the decisions I have had to make.
One last story for you. I was watching the 1990’s show Northern Exposure the other day (great show) and the episode I was watching follows the story of one character, Michelle, who is having a lot of trouble making decisions. She can’t decide what socks to wear, what food to order, what activities to partake in at a weekend trip away, etc. Any choice MIchelle is presented with is a terrifying and difficult task that paralyzes her.
After an afternoon hike that gets Michelle lost in the woods she stumbles upon a mysterious Rabbi also lost on a hike. The two characters discuss the difficulties of decision making as they attempt to find the right way home. After a time the Rabbi says, “An old Yiddish proverb goes ‘If you have no idea where you are going, every road will take you there.”
Every road will take you there. This is the miracle. Every place where you are is where you should be. With the right intentions, focus and help you are exactly where you should be, wherever that is.
I believe God rides along with us, perhaps also wondering where it is that we are going as we walk. Or perhaps God only shows up when you’ve really gone off track. Otherwise, no news is good news, “Just keep on going.” Perhaps Truth should be our guide and Truth is everywhere, so anywhere there is Truth it is the right decision. Truth can be found with the help of others, the more we seek help from our community the more direction we may receive.
Maybe if we spend all our time looking for a sign we will just get lost. The Rabbi and Michelle get very lost trying to figure out why they are both there, lost in the thick of the Alaskan woods. They even stumble upon a burning bush but it has nothing to say. The bush doesn’t have the answers, the Rabbi and Michelle have the answers. In their conversations with each other they find themselves where they are and help each other keep going in the right direction.
It’s up to us. It’s our choice and our community will help guide us. Every road will take you there and if you get lost and confused, find a friend to help you.