Last April, I was hiking on the Elliot Coues trail around Fort Macon. At one point I happened to glance over my shoulder. Much to my delight, one of the many Live Oaks had shaped itself into a heart. Was God sending me a message? I think so.
I discerned it could be one of several possibilities. I had just finished serving at all of the Easter Triduum liturgies. Beautiful, but exhausting. Maybe God was saying ‘Well done’, like that little heart emojee people use to ‘like’ on Facebook. Or it could have been the reason for my visit to the area in the first place – a chance to spend some time with my new born grandson. Maybe God saying he shared my love and joy. A third reason for the sign might have been for a little encouragement. I was considering a leading a new retreat toward the end of June on the Eucharist. I had a lot of doubt about whether I could put something meaningful together in that short of time. Maybe God was saying, “I love the idea. Go for it.”
As I look back, I’m thinking God was saying all three – praise, love, and encouragement. That’s the neat thing about signs. They lend themselves to various interpretations. Sometimes it takes time to sort the true meaning out.
Signs are also easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. I showed my wife the photo. She was also on the hike. She said, “Wow. Where did you see that?!?” I wonder how often God is speaking to me in signs – they could be in the ephemeral clouds or in the gritty circumstances of my life – and I miss the message.
Today I was reminded that signs come to us in a particular place and time, sometimes never to return. Two months after my first sighting I returned to the same trail. I looked for the same tree, glancing over my shoulder so many times my dog started to get annoyed at the many times I checked the leash. Weirdly, out of all of the live oaks on this trail, I couldn’t find the one that shaped itself into a heart on that day after Easter. Perhaps the elusive heart was just the sign I needed right there and now, and not two months later. That’s the other part of signs – they come to us at a particular time. And then they’re gone.
Spend some time looking around today. How is God speaking to you in signs?