In our CCC teacher training we’ve just had a class on listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, so I’ve been focusing on that and trying to ask for guidance whenever it is feasible. This week, I experienced some strange events that felt like a nudge from Him, even though I don’t know quite yet where that nudge is meant to push me.
Here’s the story: As part of her work, Patricia often attends events sponsored by various organizations that help migrants on their journey through Mexico to the north. Normally I don’t go with her; I’ll stay at home, do Circle work on my computer, and take care of the cats. But when she was invited to a workshop held this week in Chiapas by the Catholic Pastoral Dimension of Human Mobility, I prayed about going with her this time and surprisingly felt that I should. It was a nine-hour bus ride there and back and it would have been more convenient to stay home, but somehow I felt like I needed to go.
Now, I wasn’t actually invited to participate in the workshop; I was just Patricia’s partner, along for the ride. My plan was simply to work in our room while Patricia was attending the sessions. I was told we’d have an Internet connection, so I figured I would do Circle work as usual, have my weekly Skype meetings with my CCC teacher-training pupils, go for runs in the afternoon, and maybe see the sights a little bit. My main participation in the workshop would be eating the delicious meals that were provided.
But then two seemingly related trends started to emerge. First, in spite of my intent to just do my own thing, the workshop organizers treated me like a full participant from the beginning. I was registered as a participant. I got a participant’s packet. My name, not Patricia’s, was on the door of our room. I was invited to be in the group photo. Second, the plans I had made to do my own thing slowly fell apart, mainly because the promised Internet connection didn’t work. I tried various means to acquire a sufficient signal, but to no avail. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn’t do much of anything I wanted to do, especially my scheduled meetings with my pupils.
Then, a friend of Patricia’s and mine who was participating in the workshop invited me to participate in that afternoon’s session (Wednesday). With the help of his phone, I got an Internet signal that was unfortunately not strong enough for my Skype meetings but was strong enough to send e-mails. So, I managed to get a few messages off postponing my meetings (something I regretted, but could do nothing about) and taking care of unfinished business. As a result, my schedule was free Wednesday and Thursday, the duration of the rest of the Workshop.
With all this free time on my hands, I was tempted just to relax, read, and run until it was time to go home. My still-bumbling Spanish meant I wouldn’t get much out of the workshop anyway, right? Even if there was something I needed to know, Patricia could give me a translated summary later. But when I prayed about accepting our friend’s invitation to the afternoon session, I got the sense that I should, though I didn’t know why. For some reason, it seemed, my body needed to be there. What the heck? What did I have to lose? So I went to the session, and…
Now’s the time I’m supposed to tell you about the great miraculous event or magnificent revelation that made perfect sense of everything. But the truth is, nothing like that happened. I don’t really know why I was supposed to be there. We broke up into multiple small groups to brainstorm, something I’m really not very good at even in English with topics I know well, let alone in Spanish with topics I’m just beginning to learn about. I frankly didn’t understand much beyond the gist of what was going on. I said nothing. I asked the Holy Spirit what the heck I was doing there, and I wrote a list in Spanish of what felt like logical reasons. (Hey, maybe a guy from the place the migrants are headed might come in handy.) But as I finished the session Wednesday and attended all the sessions on Thursday as well, I still didn’t get any big insights about the meaning of it all.
That being said, it still feels that I was meant to be there, and I will discover the reasons as things continue to unfold. It seemed that Someone had plans for me that overruled my own plans, and He arranged events to make sure I was at that workshop. It felt right to be at the sessions and it felt like I belonged, even though I was clueless much of the time. On Wednesday night, one of the organizers told Patricia that she was glad I had attended, and even asked Patricia what she had done to get me to come! (She didn’t try to influence me either way, though she was happy I was there.) It seemed like everything conspired to make sure I was there.
I think it’s safe to assume that all of this has something to do with the mission Patricia and I have together, but beyond that I still don’t know what it was about. I think this kind of thing happens with a lot of the guidance we get. We don’t always get the big revelation that makes everything fall into place; sometimes it’s just a few steps toward a goal that hasn’t yet been revealed to us in full. Like a great chess master, the Holy Spirit is always thinking many moves ahead. Our job is to ask, listen, and trust Him enough to move to whatever square He points us to next. I feel like I did that this week, and I’m looking forward to seeing what more will be revealed over time.