In years past, when I went on vacation, I wanted to receive some big revelation from God about my calling. I noticed others would go away on retreats and come back with the next 10 years all mapped out because God spoke to them.
That sounds pretty good to me, but it’s literally never happened. I used to worry that this meant I had taken a wrong turn somewhere in the past and had been slowly drifting away from God for years and could never find my way back.
But I don’t worry too much about that anymore, because (in general) I think the way God guides us is much different.
Now I think about more like a general orientation that guides my life, and a trust that God will be present and at work in the midst of whatever circumstances come up in the midst of that journey.
For example, I know I have a priestly call to minister God’s word and sacraments to God’s people, to help them pay attention to how God is at work in their lives. But as far as the specific steps to take along the way, well, I don’t even know what the options will be until we walk it out.
In the midst of the general orientation and call to ministry, I simply pay attention to what God seems to be doing in the midst of it, and respond with a YES. The specific twists and turns along the way can’t be known ahead of time, so it’s fruitless to try and predict the future or “get a word from God” that will guarantee a positive outcome.
Instead, you simply orient yourself in the direction of your call, and keep your eyes open for God’s activity, trying to stay within the wake of God’s grace as he goes ahead of you.
So it’s less like having a map, where you know the exact location of your destination, and the terrain you’ll be encountering along the way, and more like having a general orientation and being ready for whatever along the way.
It’s like checking your compass to make sure you’re oriented to true north, and then trusting that God will be present and at work in whatever challenges the terrain presents along the way.
That isn’t to say that God doesn’t give us specific words sometimes, but that’s not the only (or even normal) way he guides us.