When we were in Chicago over Memorial Day, we let the girls go on their own to the Bean one evening. We wondered briefly whether it would be safe, whether they would get lost, especially since our oldest is not known for her navigational skills. They’re not city kids either, and the streets would be crowded even after dinner. After checking with a friend who lives near Millennium Park, who assured us it was safe, we remembered their iPhones would be ready to guide them back if they got turned around. Open up the Maps app and they’d be back on track.
Only in the rural farmland around Mankato, where the roads look the same in all directions, have I had to stop and ask for directions in the recent past. Otherwise, I plug the address into my phone and my trusted friend Siri gets me where I want to go. Usually, on the first try.
Would that Siri could help me find Jesus. How I wish I could say, “Hey Siri, get directions to my Lord and Savior” and her soothing voice would guide me turn by turn to where Jesus has gone way out ahead of me. But the truth is, for the last two years, my life has been so busy and chaotic that I barely know where all the members of my family are, let alone where Jesus is or what he’s doing. Sure, there are times when I run smack into him, like the proverbial brick wall, so I know he’s around. But I crave the purposeful encounters, for which I always seem to run out of time, where I can catch up to Jesus and maybe walk the same way with him for a short time.
So today I stopped to ask for directions. I went to Good Counsel, the aptly named home of the School Sisters of Notre Dame here in Mankato, and sat for an hour with Sister Mary Jo. She’s a spiritual director, essentially a travel guide on this unpredictable journey of discipleship. It’s her job to listen to my questions, my wonderings, and my spiritual frustration, and discern where Jesus might be in the midst of it. Sometimes, she will even offer specific directions that will bring me closer to the One I’m seeking.
I was anxious before I went, because some part of me still believes that Jesus is just waiting to gobsmack me with some unpleasant revelation when I finally stop to pay attention. Part of me is always afraid of what will happen when I actually meet Jesus. And rightly so, him being the Lord of all creation and such.
But what Sister Mary Jo reminded me today is that our God is first and foremost a God of grace, who wants to be found. It’s not some game of hide and seek, where God capriciously changes hiding spots when we get close. God through Jesus is already in the midst of my busy life: in, with and under every experience, waiting for me to look up from my map and see him.
I know it’s not easy to ask. Heavens, it took me two years since I ended my relationship with my last spiritual director to even make a call to find a new one. There’s risk in admitting you don’t know where Jesus is, let alone what he’s up to. There’s risk in sharing your spiritual needs and secret longings with another imperfect human like yourself. They might say the wrong thing, or look at you like you’re a little nuts. They might not have more answers than you do. (Though it’s a pretty solid bet a woman whose dedicated her life that’s twice as long as mine to Jesus will know some things I don’t.)
But what I’ve realized in my month of sabbatical is that the risk of not asking is greater. Continuing to pretend I know where I’m going just leads me round the same circle I’ve been traveling, like some inescapable spiritual roundabout. Continuing to careen through life without a guide, waiting until Jesus puts up a roadblock again is less than the full spirituality I deserve. Less than what Jesus himself wants for me. We are not meant to find Jesus on our own. We’re created to need the help of others.
“You are a grace,” Sister Mary Jo told me today, “to yourself, to your family, to your parish.” And she was a grace to me today, a living road map to the Lord who is looking for me too.
So if you’re feeling turned around and unsure of the right direction, stop and ask somebody for directions today. Your pastor is probably a good choice, or your parents if they are Jesus followers. Maybe a friend or a mentor. Definitely a Catholic nun if you can find one nearby. Or me, even. I may not be able to see the way to Jesus for myself, but funnily enough, I can probably help you see your way to him. Maybe this is what he meant when he said that thing about being wherever two or three are gathered in his name.
I don’t know, but I plan to keep on asking until I find out.