Happy Easter Monday! I spent a lot of the last few days at my church for Triduum services (that’s Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday), which at my church are very long but also very meaningful and inspiring events. It seems appropriate to follow with a review of one of the spiritual books I’m reading this year: I’d Say Yes, God, If I Knew What You Wanted by Nancy Reeves.
I found this book in a fairly inspired way, if only through the sheer randomness of it. I work in marketing for a hospice, so we have a spiritual care department. Our chaplains were discarding some books from their shelves, and left them on the table in the communal kitchen. I of course had to glance through a stack of free books…and since I have been known to frequently say, but how do I know what God wants?…I obviously couldn’t pass up on that title.
Sometimes good titles lead to disappointments, but this one proved all I might have hoped. Everyone (religious) says we should follow God, but Reeves addresses the complicated question of knowing what that actually means in a way that really worked for me. It’s not so much about moral choices (knowing you shouldn’t commit murder is pretty straight-forward) but rather about life choices. Do I take the new job? Do I stay friends with this difficult person? How do I handle any particular challenge that comes up in life?
Reeves walks through some broad concepts around what discernment is and isn’t, addressing things like free-will, martyrdom (not always a good thing!), mystical experiences and benefits of spiritual practices and self-awareness. She made concepts very accessible and practical. It’s never heavy-handed and I feel like there was a lot of emphasis on freedom, peace and choice–there’s no one right path for everyone, and following the path God intends shouldn’t feel painful (not to say that the right path is always easy…but being hard doesn’t mean it’s always right).
The second half of the book looks at broad methods of discernment, like prayer, scripture, dreams, and other people (that last resonated with me especially). Throughout both sections, Reeves gives copious examples of individual stories, of how people discerned God’s will in situations in their lives.
There’s a pattern I often repeat when someone is speaking about callings, or divine promptings. Someone says God told them to do something, and I think (usually I’m not in a position, or it would be rude, to say) what does that mean? Did Gabriel appear visibly and tell you something? Was it an inner feeling? Did you read a Bible passage that spoke to your situation? Did your friend say something and it suddenly clicked? How did God tell you, especially if it was something you previously thought you didn’t want?
This book is all about what it means. I’m not even sure I could have written the paragraph above, with all those examples, before reading it! There are dozens of different ways people discern a calling or a message, and Reeves really drills it down into something concrete. I feel like someone who leads with their heart wouldn’t really need this book–they’re probably already there (or would have different needs). I lead with my head a lot (or just get tangled, hard to say) and this was really helpful for giving me something my brain can wrap around.
Oddly enough, one of the big discernment methods that resonated with me was simply feeling peace around one option in a choice. That’s completely a heart thing–but putting it in those terms helped my brain get around it. I also was able to look back at my own life and identify places where I did feel called and acted accordingly; this helped me have a framework to see where that was happening.
So far (and I know we’re only in April, but…) this is one of the most helpful spiritual books I’ve read this year. And considering I just stumbled upon it, and its so very resonant title, well…I’m willing to call that divine direction!
I hope you had a very Happy Easter for all who celebrate, and a Happy Spring to everyone else!
Author’s Site: http://www.nancyreeves.ca/other-books.html
Buy it here: I’d Say Yes, God