Years ago, I went through what were probably some pretty typical growing pains. I'd dropped out of a college program. Ended up in a foreign country without housing or a job. Lost contact with friends and family members for a little while. Then, things started looking up. I got a new job that seemed to be headed toward a genuine career. I found some new friends, and was sharing a neat apartment in Boston's Back Bay.
But the following summer, I screwed things up again when I got involved in a romantic relationship that I see now was wrongheaded for us both. I'd wake up in my apartment in the middle of the night, and as I'd sit there in my twin bed next to the window that overlooked the Fenway, I'd cry out with all my heart - quietly, so I wouldn't wake up my roommate - "Oh, God! Just give me a sign!"
The psalms in the Bible are rife with similar pleas to the Holy One of Israel, made by folks in desperate circumstances who needed some sort of tangible proof that God was near. One psalm says, "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God" (Ps. 84:2). That's just about how I felt.
As it happened, I did see a sign during all those sleepless nights - the same one, again and again. It was the enormous Citgo sign - now one of Boston's landmarks - blinking its neon red, white, and blue lights above Fenway Park.
Somehow, when I'd look up at all that bright activity going on at two or three in the morning, after all the noise of the traffic had stilled on my busy street and no one else in the world seemed to be awake - I'd stop feeling quite so alone. And once I became quieter and was less afraid, I would find a way to pray to God more intelligently - to ask Him what I should do next, rather than just tearfully beg Him to give me a sign.
Since then, I've noticed that in almost all the Bible stories that contain angels, the first message the angel delivers to the character in the story is essentially, "Don't be afraid." And once those people were more quiet, less afraid, their next step was usually to see exactly what it was God wanted them to do. Like those Bible characters, I began to listen for the "next angel" - and to take the practical, logical steps that inspiration brought.
I started a spiritual adventure that still leads me, again and again, to the conviction that God is the closest friend I will ever have - not just that God is loving and kind and good, but that God is divine Love itself. That means there is no change that can ever occur in our circumstances, in our surroundings - or in our relationships - that can take us outside of Love.
Every time I see that Citgo sign, I remember that with God's help, I made it through that crisis. And then another. And another after that. The fact that I've survived again and again, each time I've prayed for answers, has taught me something.
I still find myself asking God for a sign every now and then. I've come to think of that unspoken plea as a special prayer - an admission that I'm receptive to being helped. Every time I ask, God does give me a sign - something that lets me know He is very near. I can feel that love. A divine presence. A power. A saving grace. I've come to believe in the deepest places of my heart that "it is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not" (Lam. 2:23).
Someone is always "there for us," even when it looks as if no one is. His name is the Lord of Hosts. He commands a whole army of angels. He sends us these angels, or holy thoughts - sometimes called signs - to help us make it through the night. Some of these tender messages tell us not to be afraid. Others tell us what to do next.
May you lift up your head and see a sign.
My angels are exalted
thoughts, appearing at the
door of some sepulchre, in which human belief has buried its fondest earthly hopes.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor