John 8: 31-33 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus’ words to the Jewish people have always been a trouble to me. This is because the Jews had for centuries worshipped God in a traditional manner, with their leaders, the Pharisees and Sadducees as their only guide. Oh sure, early on there was Abraham, Moses, David, and several others whom God put before the Israelites, but at the time of Jesus, it had been 1000 years since one of these special people people had been brought to lead Israel. Israel remembered them fondly, and Abraham was at the top of the list. Abraham would leave his home and venture out into the wilderness to follow God, and all of Israel knew that it was that faithfulness that had eventually lead them to the promise land.
God lead them to their beloved home, and to their style of worship, and it never occurred to the Jews that things might change. Here is where I empathize with the Jewish people; we all have our cherished traditions, but how do you know when God is asking for you to change?
- Life just is not working! After 50 years I have come to know that there were certain times in my life that were difficult but proper, and then there were times when things just did not work. So you might be in the middle of difficulty, how can you tell if this is just “paying your dues” or if you are on the wrong track? Prayer is first. I have read St. John of the cross’ “Dark Night of the Soul”, and have shivered at the idea that God can choose to be distant in order to “exercise” the faith that is within. But I have always found that if my prayer life is giving me solace, then I am on the right path but simply going through a rough patch. On the other hand, if my prayer life resembles a “dark night”, then I am on the wrong path. Now mind you, this takes more than a few prayer attempts! There are some days that prayer does not come easily, and my daily prayer becomes work. Usually, and especially lately, it is these days that I seek others, I go to a public rosary or a mass, and worshipping with others usually sets me straight. But if nothing works, for months on end, you might want to check your compass, you might be on the wrong road.
- God’s Word seems to be a bother. You know those parts of the Bible that are just pesky? Those verses that you read over quickly, or skip all together? When you are grappling with God’s Word you are on the wrong path. Now let me qualify that remark. Striving for understanding and grappling are two different things. We can struggle with understanding, re-read, seek help, or maybe even have to put it aside to come back with a fresh pair of eyes; but this is not what I mean. I am talking about the section of scripture that you simply have chosen not to believe. People wrestle with John 6, they reject entire books such as Revelation, and they insist that the Bible never mentions anything about abortion. Are you at odds with scripture? You might be on the wrong road.
- Are you happy? This might sound polyann-ish, but Christians are meant to be happy. We are given so much grace through the sacraments, we should be happy folks! Of course we can have bad days, but we should be able to take a breath, remind ourselves that God has this, and at least manage to present a smile. If people know you as an unhappy person, you might be on the wrong path.
I could go on, but those are the top three compass bearings to see if you are on God’s path. If you think you are astray, go see your pastor! If you can’t, confide in a good Christian friend. If you can’t do either, start hanging around better people, now! Seriously though, if you have neither a trustworthy pastor or a good Christian friend, it’s time to go church shopping, and your list should include churches that appear to be free of the preceding three examples of bad bearings.
We should be ready and willing to recognize when God is in front of us, asking for us to change our life. It is God’s truth, not our own that we should be seeking. Don’t fall into the trap of placing your trust in man or tradition, always look for God in everything you do.