My son recently celebrated his 5th birthday and our house is now full of lego: Lego Star Wars, Lego Iron Man, Lego Superman, Monster Lego and just plain Lego. Thankfully he and I also got lightsabers, but that’s for another post!
I did a search on the internet for Lego games and on top of the results was the sentence “Did you mean ego?”. This brought to mind a conversation I had with a mum at the school gates which gave my ego a little boost.
As our children played she said to me that for some time she had looked at me and thought ‘vicar’ then added “Actually I’ve seen you as a Bishop”. I didn’t know what to say in reply. It was certainly a nice and encouraging thing for her to say. I didn’t want to dismiss it or be discourteous. All I could do was to laugh.
Later that night I sent a tweet mentioning the encounter. A fellow blogger and tweeter, Dr Moose, who is ordained, replied:
most of us have had the bishop comment somewhere along the way. Why not smile & say something about “it’s up to God”
He’s quite right of course, my future is in God’s hands. That isn’t to say that I think I’m going to be a bishop, though I do quite like purple.
But the tweet got me thinking, can we tell when things are prophetic or just polite conversation?
During my brief career in teaching several people said to me that they thought that I would be a good head-teacher, some even went as far as to say they saw me being one in the future. Such things may have been genuinely felt but they were certainly not prophetic (see my first post on this blog: I am called).
I’m sure some can quickly tell the difference between the prophetic and encouragement, and if that’s you I would appreciate your thoughts. Certainly it is a topic for me to look into further at some point.
As people have become aware that I am exploring they have said similar things to the mum at the school gates. I have mentioned before that I have been reminded of conversations held before I acknowledged that God may be calling me towards ordination. Some of these now appear to have been prophetic given what has happened this year, but it is always clearer in hindsight.
Encouraging, perceptive and even prophetic conversations raise some interesting questions. If we see or feel that someone has a particular skill or future ahead of them should we wait for them to realise themselves or for God to tell them? Or should we bring it to their attention before they bring it to ours?
God often uses others to speak to us, be it a preacher, stranger or even a close friend. When we have an insight or a perceptive moment it may be that God is speaking to us. If we don’t tell someone that we feel that God has given them a gift to use, or a vocation to pursue, are we doing our duty as friends and disciples?
Telling people that we see something in them can have profound and important consequences. It may confirm something they have been thinking about or felt called towards. It may be that God is using us to speak into their lives. If we fail to pass it on we are not just failing to help someone, we are failing God.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Whilst it is nice to encourage and compliment people, if the words said are not genuine and sincere they can be damaging. They can make it harder to discern the right path forwards.
Constructive honesty is key to all of this. If something is genuine and encouraging then tell the person. It is certainly harder to tell something that is more challenging but God may still want us to tell the person. Such things need delicate handling and the counsel of others may be needed before a message is passed on.
Think of talent shows. How many times have you seen people singing out of tune yet convinced that they are the next big thing? Often their friends and family standing off stage believe the same thing. Some are truly shocked when the judges tell them the truth. It may be ‘entertainment’ but it can also be damaging and humiliating for the person being judged. Thankfully the discernment process for ordination is so rigorous that if I ever make it to the judging panel, the BAP, I shouldn’t have such an experience; at least I hope I don’t!
Was the mum I spoke with at the school gate being prophetic? Was it simply a polite but encouraging conversation? Only God knows the answer to those questions. My mind, my heart and my soul is simply trying to stay on the path God has set before me, where that takes me is for Him to know and for me to find out.
Should the mum I spoke with at the school gate have told me what she had thought before our conversation last week? Perhaps. It might have carried more weight if she had. Maybe though God was using her to speak into my life as it is now, to affirm and encourage me at this point on my journey. Maybe she was simply being nice. Whichever it was, the conversation we had is something to be thankful for.