There's an amusing little illustration in Richard Brodie's book, Getting Past OK. On one side, near the bottom, there's the face of a man with his hair standing on end, his eyes bulging wide, and his mouth expressing utter shock. On top of the other side is a big cloud saying to him, "Your purpose in life is to memorize every episode of Gilligan's Island!" The caption for this scene reads, "If a voice from the clouds suddenly told you what to do, would you believe it?"
As outrageous as this example is, it clearly expresses what many people expect when they speak of Divine Guidance, God's Will, and the like. "If God really exists," they say, "would he not make himself obvious? wouldn't he just appear to us all and tell us what to do?"
Well, if Biblical history is reliable we can say that God tried this back in the time of Moses. He sent plagues upon Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. He parted the Red Sea, showered manna from Heaven, and appeared as a column of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night. Then he made a bush burn without really burning it and told everyone exactly what was best for them with the Ten Commandments and a few hundred lesser laws. But given the general failure to follow even the first ten—which are about as clear and direct as you can get!—it hardly needs mention that humanity as a whole has pretty well botched it.
God, of course, could try all this again. He could appear in the clouds and threaten to flood us out unless we all learned to behave ourselves and love him and love each other like we'resupposed to. But then what choice would we really have? It'd be no better than what modern psychology calls codependence: any love and obedience that we'dbe able to muster under such conditions would disappear the moment the threats were even slightly relaxed.
No, God wants us to love of our own free will, not because we'regiven no other alternative. He won't come and say "I am God. You must obey me"; in his humbleness God has vowed himself to silence. If we choose to ignore him and look upon his creation as a meaningless jumble of mindless sub-atomic particles, that's fine. He won't impose himself on us. He'll just let us play in the world, with all its joys and sorrows, as long as we like.
But if we choose to sincerely seek God in some fashion, no matter how insignificant it may seem, he will respond. If we seek him as truth and justice, he will guide us accordingly; if we seek him as love and joy, appropriate experiences will come our way. It doesn't matter how we seek God; what matters is that we seek him. The smallest effort will come back a thousand-fold.
In this book I have offered my personal testimony—experience, not belief—as proof of these claims. God responded to my poor efforts in wonderful and sometimes miraculous ways. In each case, he was always inviting me to take another step forward, as he has continued to do to this day (but that's another story in itself). Yes, his invitations were usually quite strong, amounting in some cases to a firm nudge in the right direction, if not a swift kick in the pants! Still, I was always, in every circumstance, free to choose differently. I didn't have to accept my starting job in Developer Support, I didn't have to transfer to Developer Relations, I didn't have to write Inside OLE 2, and I didn't have to leave Microsoft when I did—although I know that God would have found other ways to lead me along no matter how often I ignored his prompts.
The difference, though, would have been one of greater pain versus greater delight. The more we try to push God away—to cut ourselves off from the greater reality around us, no matter what we call it—the more we experience pain. The more we can embrace that reality, on the other hand, the more we experience joy no matter what happens to befall us.
In closing, then, I leave you once more with the thought that through whatever form of God draws your devotion—as Heavenly Father, Divine Mother, some more universal aspect like Peace or Joy, or even God as manifest through the life of a great saint or master—consciously make your awareness of the Divine a greater part of your life. Cultivate love in the depths of your heart. Share your thoughts. Listen within for a response. Listen for what's really trying to happen in your life and give yourself wholeheartedly into that flow. For that Spirit is there to lovingly guide us in every moment: in our homes, in our leisure activities, in our relationships, and even in the corporate halls of high technology.