The third story concerns the writer [Sangster]. I have made it a practice of my quiet time to ask God’s guidance in all areas of my life and ministry, not to the atrophy of reason but to the overruling of it in any way where it runs counter to the Divine Will. Particularly do I seek guidance in my pastoral work: where to call and how to make best use of the personal contacts of the home. One must work to a plan in this, as in other things, and yet beware lest the plan become a prison and make one deaf to a special word from God.
One morning as I waited quietly before God, it was borne in upon me that I must call on a certain woman that day. I resisted the thought. It did not fit in with my plans. I knew no reason why I should go to her home. To go in that direction would mean one call; to go in the way I planned would mean a dozen. Yet her name dinned in my ears and I went. And the memory of that visit will always be sweet to me. I can see her wan face as I write. “Do come in,” she said, and when I sat down she added, “Fancy you remembering.”
But I had remembered nothing and said so. And then she reminded me. “It was a year ago to-day,” she said, “since you buried my husband. I have been dreading this day and got up this morning fearfully overwrought and feeling that I must run away from the house and every stabbing memory. But, as I tried to pray, God came very near and seemed to urge me to wait within the home. Somehow I knew He would send me a word of comfort.” So we talked together quietly and confidently of the Blessed Hope—the sure and certain hope (sublime paradox!)—and I reminded her again that I had not remembered but that God had sent me. And my forgetfulness seemed a little thing to her at the thought that He was mindful. “It is very wonderful,” she said; “God must keep a calendar.”
—From God Does Guide Us by W. E. Sangster
Previously I reflected on how I have heard God’s voice through prayer and reading the Bible. Today I reflect on the third of Sangster’s ways of hearing God’s voice—through circumstances in our daily lives. I relate three stories from my recent past that I hope illustrate this point.
The first example deals with my discernment process and being made a postulant for the priesthood. Throughout the process, I tried to be very intentional in looking for God’s movement, guidance, and involvement in it. I mention this because it has been my experience that it is entirely possible to miss God’s voice in the midst of our circumstances if we do not look for it. And so as my priest, Fr. Ron, began to assemble my discernment committee, I was amazed that independently we thought about the same people to serve on it.
As my discernment process moved to the diocesan level, and without getting specific, I was astonished—literally—to find the right people being in place at the right time. First, my bishop affirmed my call to ministry in a most powerful way that left me amazed; it was certainly not something I had expected but it was quite real nevertheless. In fact, as we left the meeting, my wife commented about how peaceful I looked and acted.
After my meeting with the bishop, certain events had to happen rather quickly for him to grant me postulancy before he retired in December, something he told me he very much wanted to do. They did. Today I begin my studies at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (TESM) in its online Diploma for Anglican Studies because the right people were in place to make that decision. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to pursue this seminary option because it best suits my skills as an educational technologist. TESM is also an orthodox seminary and that best suits my beliefs. Suffice it to say that I believe it to be no coincidence that I am where I am because of God’s guiding hand in this rather complex set of circumstances. Too much has happened for them to be merely coincidences and because of this, I have once again heard God’s voice confirming my call to the ordained ministry.
The second example I offer is much more personal. Recently I had to deal with some legal hangovers with my ex-wife regarding child custody issues. As a result, I had to drive two and a half hours to Hamilton for a court hearing, something I dreaded doing. I was also deeply saddened that this was an apparently unresolved issue, even after almost 6 years of being divorced. Simply put, it had taken the stuffings out of me on more than one level. I had thought about asking my dear friend, Fr. Ron, to drive with me but rejected the idea because I did not want to impose on him; I knew I would be asking him for an all day commitment and couldn’t bring myself to do that to him. When the day of the hearing arrived, my heart was heavy as I prepared to undertake my journey. Imagine, then, my utter surprise when Ron called and asked if I wanted him to travel to Hamilton with me (I still get the shivers just thinking about this)! He told me that God had awakened him very early in the morning, something that Ron will tell you is no easy task, and told him to call me. I quickly accepted Ron’s invitation and thanked both God and him for being so gracious to me as well as being such good friends.
Note the dynamics in this latter story. Here were two people listening for God’s voice and responding positively when they heard it. Also note the intimacy of God’s involvement in the circumstances of life. It wasn’t overly obtrusive nor was it harmful; rather, it answered a quite palpable need on my part. I can really love and worship a God who pays that kind of attention in the lives of his children and believe that guidance to be available to any who ask and seek it. I should also point out again that Ron did not “hear” an audible voice when God awoke him early that morning. Instead, the idea that he should travel with me was borne on his mind; and so, like Sangster’s story above, he heard God’s voice because he has a history of paying attention to it and recognized it when God spoke to him.
The last story involves this blog itself. I have not had much action on it and that has been disappointing. It’s a tough thing to put my time and energy into something and then have no one pay attention to it. However, because I perceive this to be something God wants me to do, I will continue writing it, irrespective of traffic or response, until I hear otherwise. Toward the end of last week, I was reflecting on the fact that few, if any, people were reading this but kept reminding myself that that was not the point. Imagine my shock when I went to Kendall Harmon’s blog, titusonenine, on Thursday and saw my name as a topic! Unbelievable! He found out I had a new blog (how, I don’t know) and invited folks to check it out. This is especially interesting because I had considered writing Kendall and asking him to plug my blog but didn’t because I am not very good at selling myself, at least in that way. Then the Confessing Reader paid a visit here and made a positive comment about my writing on his blog. In addition, a third person left a wonderful comment elsewhere on this blog from which I took encouragement.
How did I react to these events? I was absolutely awed into silence because in these unrelated circumstances I heard God’s voice of encouragement to me. He seemed to be saying, “Keep on writing, Kevin. If I want this to grow, it will. Your job is to keep on writing.” And so here I am this afternoon. I have a ton of things to do today, including seminary work, but here I am, trying to be obedient to God’s voice heard in these circumstances. Make no mistake. This blog has not suddenly turned into a high traffic site or any such thing. That’s OK, though. It’s not mine to grow. My job is to obey the call, to listen to the Voice in circumstances.
It’s your turn now. How has God spoken to you in your life’s circumstances and how have you responded? What prevents you from hearing God’s voice in them? What are some things you could do to better listen for his voice in your daily circumstances? How might we help you in this endeavor? Tell us your stories so that we might draw strength, hope, and encouragement from our collective testimonies. all the while giving thanks to God for speaking to us in the daily circumstances of our lives.
—Tomorrow: Hearing God’s voice through fellowship