You're driving down the road in an area that you don't know and you take an unexpected turn. The GPS cheerfully announces "recalculating", and for a few terrifying seconds you have no idea where you're going.
One of my theological heroes who has influenced my theological thinking is Bishop Robert Barron. I follow his work on Word on Fire and I recently watched this video about a GPS as an image for divine providence:
I want to extend his image and reflect on that moment after your journey takes a significant turn and the GPS announces it is 'recalculating' your route.
Anyone who uses a GPS regularly is familiar with that moment. It's the moment when something happened the GPS did not expect and now it needs to recalculate a new route. The moment usually lasts no more than a second, though sometimes longer, and you're back on track on your way to your destination again. But those can be a stressful couple of moments when you have no direction coming to you from the GPS. You're completely on your own to decide if you continue to go straight, turn left, or turn right. Your decision might bring you closer to your destination or you might find yourself even further in the wrong direction.
There are moments when our lives take a significant and disruptive turn. A significant life event causes us to reevaluate where we're going. A new baby is born. A parent dies. A student graduates. A job is lost. A new career begins. A relationship ends. Another city becomes home. A bride and groom are married. A lifelong parish closes. A new believer is baptized. New routines need to be developed. New attitudes may need to be formed. We may need to develop a new understanding of who we are or who we are becoming. Sometimes a period of grieving is needed as old dreams are let go and new dreams are formed. These times of transition can be terrifying when it feels as if we have no direction and we are unsure of how to proceed forward.
It may feel as if our Divine Providence GPS is recalculating and we are left without a guide for a brief moment. Of course the image is not perfect because we know God is always near and guiding us even when we can't see him. However, in those times of transition our perception may be God is providing no direction and our feeling may be that Divine Providence is recalculating. Unlike a GPS recalculating which only takes a second, these times of turbulence in our lives may last much longer.
While the GPS is recalculating, two things need to have to happen. First the GPS needs to connect to the satellite. In these times of transition we need to connect to God. Attending daily mass, spending time in Eucharistic adoration, reading the scriptures, going to reconciliation, praying the Rosary, or spending time in personal prayer are just some of the many ways to create opportunities to establish a stronger connection to God. The GPS also needs to process the data it receives to determine the best route from the current location to the destination. In these times of transition we need to take extra time for reflection and contemplation to process the promptings we are receiving from God to determine the next steps on our lives' journeys. Writing in a journal, walking in the woods, visiting a cemetery, spending time in silence, doing artistic meditation,talking with trusted friends, or doing lectio divina may be good ways to start processing data when the path forward is unclear.
We know that God is always near to us and that he knows us better than we know ourselves. As much we know is he is never far, there are times in our lives when it feels as if he is distant. We are especially susceptible to these periods at times of transition when we must let go of a life we were comfortable with and embrace a new direction. Like a GPS recalculating the route forward, we need to take extra time to connect with God and process the promptings we receive from him so we know which way to turn once again.
In her book Where Two or Three are Gathered, Florence Caffrey Bourg wrote "What makes a family a domestic church is a habit of interpreting its ordinary life - for better or worse - as the means through which family members are to seek, know, and love the God made known in Jesus Christ." This is one example of how I interpreted an ordinary experience from life in my domestic church. Have you had a similar experience in your domestic church?