Sometimes God speaks through a tap on the shoulder
“I will not fear for you are with me, and I will never face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton
Many years ago, I was asked to cover a concert for the diocesan newspaper where I worked. 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 recently joined.
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. Many 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 can they sing eight-part harmony so effortlessly, I wondered?
I resigned myself to the reality that I wasn’t good enough to do what they were doing.
A short time later, during choir rehearsal, I felt a tap on my shoulder 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 director of the group I had heard in concert just weeks earlier. I know 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 12 years ago, and my time with this group 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 many times 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 start a pre-school program; to be a stringer for the diocesan newspaper; to join the parish choir; become a Hospice volunteer; 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.
I often wonder what I missed those times when I didn’t accept God’s 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. Taps on the shoulder, nudges, 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. While it is true that when we accept God’s invitations, we are often forced to push past our limitations or grapple with pain and loss, the journey is always a journey toward wholeness.
Prayer, and time to listen to God’s whisperings, helps us remember ours is a God of love and possibilities.