Searching for direction?

HAYLEY BALL — STAFF

I had what I thought was a good idea. I wanted to work on a Master’s degree, so I started attending classes at a local branch of our state university. Everything about this plan made sense, or so I thought. But after only a few classes, I began to wonder if this might not have been the best idea after all.

Where do you turn when you don’t know what to do? Maybe to a parent or a friend? Someone who knows more than you do? I knew I needed some advice or guidance, so I decided to have a chat with the head of the department where I was studying. I poured out my story and my concerns, wanting him to tell me about my options and my future. He listened thoughtfully, but instead of offering advice, he asked if I knew the hymn “Lead kindly light.” 

This was surprising for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t know that he was religious, and he didn’t know that I was. And second, I wasn’t asking for a hymn; I was asking him for his wisdom.

I admitted I wasn’t familiar with the hymn, so he shared the words with me. I’d never sung it in church, but later I discovered that it is in the Christian Science Hymnal—and it’s now become one of my favorites. The first verse says:

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, 
Lead Thou me on; 
The night is dark, and I am far from home, 
Lead Thou me on. 
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see 
The distant scene; one step enough for me.
(John Henry Newman, No. 169

Well, that’s when I got it. I didn’t need advice from another person, no matter how intelligent or well-meaning they were. The best direction I could get was from God, the all-knowing, all-wise Mind. This direction would be precise and loving—exactly what I needed.

Where do you turn when you don’t know what to do?

Here’s something else that the hymn helped me understand. So many times when we don’t see the path forward, we want to get one big, all-encompassing answer. We want to see everything from start to finish and know how it’s all going to turn out. But that hymn reassured me that one step at a time would be enough. God wasn’t going to lead me forward for a step or two and then abandon me. Mind would guide me every step of the way.

After praying about it and really listening to God with an open heart, I felt led to abandon that program. And I was peaceful about the decision, which I’ve discovered is a good indication that I’m following God’s direction rather than my own sense of things.

God wasn’t going to lead me forward for a step or two and then abandon me. Mind would guide me every step of the way.

But that’s not the end of the story. It actually wasn’t until several decades later that I returned to working on a Master’s degree, and it was in an entirely different field. But it was a perfect fit, with meaningful classes. And even though my path was hardly traditional, it was God-directed. 

I learned from this experience that letting God lead us may not always take us where we expect to go, but because God is good, it will always lead us somewhere good. We can trust that.

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