I don't know how it is for you, but for me the lessons I learn are often repeated or confirmed several ways in a short period of time. I'll read something in my Bible, or hear it from a trusted friend, or feel the Spirit is telling me something, and then I'll hear or see something similar soon thereafter.
A week or so ago I was in a class taught by a man I admire for his wisdom and his gentleness. He related some advice he and his wife got from a doctor when they were going through some hard times and were trying to decide whether to leave the church and the fellowship where they were, or to stay and work things out from within. This doctor told them, "Bloom where you are planted." It sounds so simple. In fact, it sounds like a cliché. But remember that a cliché starts as a truth. It only becomes cliché when it is overused. And even then there are times when it is true.
Those simple words meant the world to this man and his wife. That phrase guided them through that part of their lives, and obviously still have an effect on them over 30 years later. And when he spoke those words, they seemed to have special impact for me. Recently some things have popped up which have made me question how I was serving God, my church, and my community. It has been a stressful and somewhat disheartening time for me and for my wife. We've run into some situations that gave us doubts about people we had trusted for a long time. Things were done that should not have been. Other things that should have been done were left undone. It has been a struggle for us to know how to react, what to do, what to say. We even began to consider leaving the church where we have worshipped and served for over 30 years.
So the simple phrase, "Bloom where you are planted" meant a lot to me.
The day after that class, I was talking to a friend who told me he was planning to hire someone to do what I do. In the current job market, I was naturally intrigued by that. This friend's company is booming while many other companies are fading. I feel sure I could get that job and do well in it. Almost immediately after hearing this, though, I also heard a quiet voice inside say, "Bloom where you are planted."
Then came the dream. Now I am not one to attribute great meaning to my dreams. In general, dreams are just random thoughts caused by your brain re-booting. In fact, I am one of those people who seldom remember my dreams. I'm sure that I have dreamed something each night, but I almost never have even the vaguest glimmer of what the dream was about. If I do remember anything it is usually something like, "Let's see. There was a puppy, a big noise, and the smell of cucumbers."
This time I not only knew the basic outline of the dream, but I could remember great numbers of details. In the dream, I went to a specific city (Chicago, for reasons that aren't clear to me) and went through a days-long interview and testing process for a job. At the end of that time, the hiring team came to me and offered me the job for substantially more than I make now (or probably will ever make). In addition, they told me that none of the others were ever really under consideration. They were just there for form. And I turned the job down, not because there was anything bad about it (okay, I really don't have any desire to live in Chicago), but because I wanted to stay where I was. Again, "Bloom where you are planted."
Okay, God. I get the message. But then come the questions. Is this really where I was planted? What does that mean? What part of my life is it about?
I can't tell you that I know the answers to those questions. I can tell you some of the ways I plan to listen for the answers.
I'll read. Both in scripture and in other books by authors whose work I trust. It may not happen to you, but I'm pretty sure God keeps sneaking stuff into my Bible. I'll read a passage for years, and then one day something will jump out at me that I've never noticed before. A similar thing often happens when reading other books, frequently books that aren't on spiritual subjects. Sometimes it's a work of fiction. But some dialogue, some scene, some phrase will hit me with a force that far outweighs simple words. I've learned to listen in those times.
I'll listen to God. I don't expect a big, booming voice speaking to me from the sky, nor do I expect to see a disembodied hand writing on the wall (although that happened once). I'll pray some more, and when I pray I'll try to be open. Just last night I was praying, asking for wisdom to give to some brothers of mine, when I heard, "Let them give to you." That was exactly what I needed at the time.
Which brings up another thing I'll do. I'll listen to Godly brothers and sisters. God puts us into community for a reason. I can't tell you how many times a person I respect and love has shown me something that was clear to them, but not to me. And I've done the same thing for them.
And I'll listen to my heart. I know, I know. "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" That's Jeremiah 17:9. You know what Jeremiah 17:10 says? "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve." We've misused that first verse to tell people that they can never trust their hearts. Yet God told us, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26) God gives us desires and puts them into our hearts. Could Mother Theresa have ministered to the poor in India all those years if her heart wasn't in it? Could Paul have endured shipwreck, beatings, hunger, hardship, and pain without his heart? No. Remember that the Pharisees were experts in the law, very good at outward righteousness. But Jesus condemned them because of their hearts.
I don't have all the answers yet. But whatever they are, I'm going to bloom in the best way I know how. I might be a blooming idiot, but that has never stopped me before.
Are you blooming?