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Among the heirlooms my father has bequeathed to me is the family nose. While this nose is no small and insignificant a feature in itself, Dad also claims for it a quasi-mystical direction-finding ability.

“Dad, are we lost?” we kids would ask suspiciously on family road trips, as Dad cruised around anonymous midwestern towns in search of all-you-can-eat family restaurants. “No,” he would reply cheerfully, “I’m just following my nose… Mmm, I can smell the food from here!”

Sadly, though I have inherited this prominent facial feature, I have not inherited Dad’s directional sense; any trip with me usually involves a U-turn at some point, to the sounds of the calm voice of the GPS/Sat Nav intoning, “Turn around when possible,” and the frantic fluttering of map pages.

Lately I have found myself in that all-too-familiar season of seeking God for guidance. We all, at various junctures in our lives, face those tough questions: What job should I take? Where should I live? Should I seek to get married? Whom to? Where should I focus my energies in church and personal life?

Sometimes hearing from God can seem a bit like my dad’s “following his nose”—an intangible, slightly mystical (or mythical?) experience with no clear answers. But one thought has been carrying me through this season of searching and praying and questioning: God is my Father.

“Les Parques” (The Fates) by Alfred Agache (c. 1885). Wikipedia.

Maybe “finding God’s will” seems so daunting because we think of it as “trying to match our lives up with the Big Blueprint in the Sky.” Or maybe God’s will seems so elusive because we think of the Holy Spirit as a shadowy Force pulling the strings. But though he does have a big plan, God is not like a Fate from Greek mythology, and though he is invisible, the Holy Spirit is not like the Force from Star Wars; the Holy Spirit is the spirit of adoption and God is our Father.

With that in mind, questions of guidance become… maybe not simpler, but at least easier to handle. A good parent’s responsibility is to guide and teach and lead his or her child—and God is a good parent. Even when the children don’t listen as well as they could, a good Father makes sure they get the message. I can rest securely, knowing that God wants the best for me and will speak to me. My trust is in him, not in my own ability to hear him.

Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19). The secret to guidance, then, does not lie in deciphering mysterious signs from heaven, but in relationship with the Father. As we know him better, we will better be able to see what he is doing—and to shape our lives accordingly. Perhaps more than anything else, God desires intimacy with us; he longs for us to love and trust him ever more fully. So perhaps that is why he withholds the complete picture from us, forcing us to depend on him, cry out to him, and take steps of faith even when we don’t understand the whole “blueprint.”

God brought this home to me last week at a friend’s house. As this friend and I were trying to hold an intelligent conversation, her two-year-old became very insistent that he wanted her to read him a book—NOW! Talking was well-nigh impossible. Meanwhile, however, the four-year-old sister had spontaneously climbed into my lap; unprompted, she planted a kiss on my cheek and then snuggled up against my shoulder.  My previously irritated heart melted.

from Flickr (the Commons)

Too often I am like the impatient toddler, wanting God to do what I want, when I want it.  But how his Father heart longs for me to simply draw close to him, and love him for who he is—not for what he can do for me. I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the difficulties and uncertainties that come into my life are little whispers from him, calling me to greater intimacy with him. Will I respond?

On those long, cross-country family road trips, I may have occasionally gotten a wee bit anxious that we might be lost—and I may have secretly questioned Dad’s super-sniffing powers—but I never doubted that we would be OK. Dad was driving. We’d get where we needed to go.