17. Responding to God in Your Life

God’s first word to you called you into existence. Living your life is your response to that call: you become what you and God do together. Your life is a gift; it is also a task and a responsibility.

But your life is not an imposition. Your own deepest and best longings were part of what God chose when God chose you. So being true to your best self and being true to God are the same thing. In that sense, your relationship with God is not a burden. God’s “law” is within you.

Imagine yourself at the far end of your life and looking back. The choices that will give you the most gladness then are the choices that are right for you now.

O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.
On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

Psalm 63:1-8

Knowing God’s will for you, and knowing yourself result from being close to each other, in the way that friends know each other. It involves talking to God and knowing that you are heard; listening, being faithful, and being in tune with your true self:

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you may discern what is the will of God. (Romans 12:2)

An ancient Christian saying puts it this way: when you love, then you will understand.

The conversation involves your core self, but it is not hidden inside you. Your talents are part of the conversation - they tell you something about God’s hopes for you.

God also speaks to you in the circumstances of your life. These include what the world around you most needs from you. The place where God calls you is the place “where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep needs” (Frederick Buechner). Even people’s human rights can have no meaning unless others have a duty to meet those rights. What is a right to food if no one has the duty to provide it? By actively seeking opportunities to meet the needs of others you are living out the dialogue you have with God, even when you are not explicitly thinking of God.

This dialogue involves making decisions and choices. Sometimes the options in front of you are big and sometimes they are small, for example, when we choose between putting a little more kindness into the world or putting less kindness; more honesty or less honesty; more forgiveness or less forgiveness, and so on. Every good choice builds up an environment in which bolder steps become possible. The world was meant to be different because of you. You, too, are different because of the choices you make. We become as we do.

Sometimes we have to choose between options that are all good. When you come to a crossroads - when choosing one direction excludes other options - don’t get paralysed by trying to keep all your options open! Freedom and fulfillment and peace of mind come through decision and commitment, not through trying to keep all options open.

Whether it is a big choice or just a little one, you can sometimes know which is the right choice by imagining yourself at the far end of your life and looking back. The choices that will give you the most gladness then are the choices that are right for you now.

God’s “yes” to you and your “yes” to God come together in the person of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 1:19-20).

Christ both inspires your response through the gospels, and enables your response through his life in you.

After those days, says the Lord, I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

In surrendering to God, we discover God.

For Practice

Think of some decision you have made that you will be glad about at the end of your life.

For Prayer

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul
I trust you, let me not be disappointed ...

Lord, make me know your ways,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my savior.

Good and upright is the Lord,
who shows sinners the way,
guides the humble in the right path,
and teaches the poor the way.

Psalm 25:1-2, 4-5, 8-9