So the question I was left with is how do you walk with God? How do you know when he's leading you?
The reason this is a problem is because, although I'm probably a postmodern person, I grew up with modern parents who taught me to lead with my mind and allow my heart and spirit to follow. The answer to my question in my home would be to read Gary Meador's book about knowing the will of God. If I'm remembering correctly, the basic premise is that within the moral and ethical boundaries God has given in his word, I can choose to do anything I want to. There is no "will of God" beyond that. I saw my parents make decisions like this. They would pray about things, they would use their rational minds to think about things, and then they would make the good/wise/right decisions within the boundaries of morality and ethics.
I don't know how this happened, but I actually believe that the Spirit also speaks into a person's life, if she is listening, and can specifically lead and guide. I think there's biblical evidence that this at least happened in biblical times--even the apostle Paul speaks about being led by the Spirit when he's heading on his missionary journeys. But my parents had great skepticism about this, mostly because of how immeasurable it is and how you can easily misinterpret your own experiences.
So anyway, most of my life I've lived in a way that I would call is "sensitive to the Spirit's leading", where I make choices about what to do and say based on how I believe the Spirit is specifically leading me.
But this year brought up that question for me again. Because if I'm going to allow that God means to use people to meet needs in the world, and if I'm going to allow that I should only be doing the things that I'm led to, rather than trying to meet everyone's needs all the time, I have to figure this out, right?
So I was drawn again to the passage of John 15, about abiding in Christ. And I remembered Galatians 5, which talks about walking in step with the spirit. What I noticed is that there is very little explanation of what this means. We're admonished to walk in step with the Spirit, to abide in Christ, but the passages don't really paint a picture besides those word pictures of being connected to the vine or walking in step with something.
So I'm left to interpret these passages in the light of the whole of Scripture. So I think of Adam and Eve, walking with God in relationship in the garden. I think of Noah, who somehow knew God and had enough faith in him to build a boat when he'd never seen any rain. I think of Enoch, who walked with God at such a deep level that he never died. And then I think of those 400 years of the silence of God when the Israelites were in captivity. And I think of the 400 years between the last prophet and Jesus coming. And then I think of how the Holy Spirit came to believers at Pentecost and is now living inside of us.
And what I have to conclude is that God doesn't just plop us here, wind us up like little wind-up toys, and let us go to do the moral and ethical things. What I see from the overarching narrative of Scripture is that God does want a deeper connection with his people - a connection that acknowledges him and submits to him in all things. I do believe, not just from Scripture but also from my own experience, that God does lead and guide and give specific direction sometimes. I think I have to know him and abide with him to the extent that I'm able to recognize his voice in my life.
That does defy measurement. It can lead me to pretty crazy places if I am not listening to the right things or am just confused. But just because it's hard doesn't mean that we should get rid of the idea all together. In the body of Christ, in Scripture, in the orthodox faith throughout history, I think we have some boundaries and some ways to measure what's truly from God.
So that's where I've landed on this issue. I continue to struggle with the ideas. But the bigger struggle is actually a heart struggle, and that's actually being willing to wake up every morning and ask the Spirit to lead and to guide, and then being willing to follow where he leads.