A tap on the shoulder is often a divine invitation
As I climbed the stairs to the cathedral choir loft for the first time since Covid-19 shook our faith in so many things, I recalled the reason I was privileged to be singing for a memorial Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
Many years ago, I was asked to cover a concert for my diocesan newspaper. I already had another event scheduled that day, but something nudged me to rearrange my schedule and accept the assignment in a nearby church.
The music was being performed by a group of familiar singers and musicians, some of whom were also part of the choir I had joined recently.
They filled the sanctuary – women in long black gowns, men in neat tuxedos — flanked by musicians on string and wind instruments. Percussionists were tucked under a soaring arch nearby. Most were professionally trained; some were parish music directors and cantors — all just amazingly talented.
As I listened in awe to their sound, I found myself wishing I could sing with them, but the complexity of the music seemed daunting. How in the world do they sing 8-part harmony so effortlessly, I wondered?
Though I loved to sing and could play the piano, I resigned myself to my perception of reality that I wasn’t good enough to do what they were doing.
Soon after, during another choir rehearsal, I felt a tap on my shoulder – a God-tap – and someone behind me leaned forward, saying, “I was wondering if you would be interested in singing with us.”
I turned around to see the conductor of the amazing group I had heard in concert and written about just weeks earlier. My first thought was, “Me? You want me to sing with you? Why?”
Fortunately, my self-deprecating thoughts didn’t rule the day, and I accepted the invitation, with amazement and in spite of my fear of failure.
That was more than 17 years ago, and my time with that amazing group, many who have become welcomed friends, has been some of the best of my life, the most challenging, the most fun, the most satisfying — time that inspired me to work harder at developing the gifts I had without comparing them to the extraordinary gifts of others.
When we look back over our lives, we may be surprised at how often life has changed for the better because of a tap on the shoulder, the gentle, unexpected nudge in the right direction even when we had no idea we were standing still or on the wrong course.
For me, some of these nudges included the invitation to become a catechist, to agree to begin a pre-school program, to be a stringer for the diocesan newspaper, to join the parish choir, to become a hospice volunteer, to see a therapist, to change jobs more than once.
All these God-taps, often delivered by friends or family or even strangers, led to life unfolding in ways I never expected. They also brought with them a blessing that has enriched my life – gratitude.
I often wonder what I missed those times when I didn’t accept God’s often quiet, sometimes raucous invitation to something new. Those were the times when I let fear rule, when I chose to stay where I was comfortable rather than face the unknown. Those were the times when I failed to abide in God’s love because of my own human weakness.
Fortunately, God never gives up on us – another reason to be thankful. Taps on the shoulder, nudges and invitations continue unless we shut the door on God.
When we allow ourselves to say “yes” to God’s invitations, to step out in faith in spite of our fear, God-taps inevitably lead to times of growth. Though often we are forced to push past our limitations or grapple with fear and uncertainly, the journey is always a journey toward wholeness.
— Originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.