“A knowledge of your perfect life sits inside you.” —Martha Beck
“Your soul alone has the map of your future.” —John O’Donohue
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” —Isaiah 30:21
Every major religion and theology speaks of some sort of guiding principal, some internal compass we can (and ought to) tap into, a state of inner contentedness to a source of wisdom which flows through us all. This voice (I will call it God, feel free to call it whatever you want… the soul, the inner compass, I don’t think it matters) speaks in different ways to each of us, and seeks to take us all down different paths. When, for instance, offered the chance to go on a primitive camping trip in Oymyakon, one person may respond with excitement and another with dread. I believe our internal responses are indicative of the life we’re meant to lead and the more often we listen and follow, the more capable we become of hearing and distinguishing this voice and the more guidance we will receive.
But often, we lose our way. We find ourselves wandering the woods, the path covered by thorns and thistles, unable to determine the next right step. Some of us live the majority of our lives this way, reaching adulthood having only a vague idea of what we enjoy and what might make us happy. We find ourselves adrift in a sea of indecision, tossed by waves and carried by winds, without any form of navigational star. How does this happen?
I believe the answer lies within the story of creation. To paraphrase:
God creates man and gives him a partner perfectly designed for him. They are naked and unashamed and walk with God each day, living peacefully in a beautiful garden God has given them to live in. One day a serpent enters the garden and convinces them to eat from the only tree God has placed off-limits. When they do, they realize they’re naked, feel ashamed, and cover themselves with leaves. Later, when God comes into the garden for his evening stroll with them, they hide. Eventually, God learns what they did, and they suffer the consequences which include banishment from the garden.
Two things most interesting to me about this story, as it pertains to the current subject, are that the serpent which causes man’s fall is described as “subtle” (difficult to see, vaporous, and deceitful,) and that he provokes the same state in Adam and Eve. They cover themselves. They hide. Could it be that if we’ve come to find ourselves lost in the wilderness, unable to hear God’s voice and see the path before us, it’s because we’re cowering in the bushes, ashamed of our own nakedness?
“If we claim to have fellowship with God and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” (1 John 1:6)
I used to assume this verse spoke about sin. In my interpretation, I could have substituted the word “sin” for “darkness” and it would have made sense. And yet, the passage continues:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
I had to read this several times, because the consequences are so profound. Notice what this verse is not saying. It is not saying that if we walk in the light, we will not sin. It says that if we walk in the light, we will have fellowship and be purified from our sin. What is light? What is darkness? Just as it’s impossible to stand in the light without being seen, it is impossible to stand in darkness and be revealed. If we are not willing to stand in the light, if we’re not willing to reveal ourselves in all our naked imperfection, we cannot have fellowship with God.
It’s no coincidence that Satan (the antithesis of God) is called the Father of Lies. Being led by God, hearing his voice, and walking the path he has set before us, requires honesty. It requires stripping ourselves of whatever we use to cover our nakedness and showing up to the world fully exposed, willing to reveal those parts of ourselves we’re most tempted to hide. Naked means being vulnerable. It means being subject to judgment. It means being unprotected and unarmed and exposed to danger. But it also means walking with God.
If we cannot hear his voice, if we do not see the signs, if we cannot find our way, perhaps it’s not because God isn’t speaking. Perhaps it’s because there are things inside of us that need to be revealed, so we can listen. Perhaps it’s time to come out of hiding, so we may walk with God.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself.” (Ephesians 4:14.)