The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 39: Everything Means Something
Well, hello friends. As I sit on my porch and write these words today, there is a red dragonfly sitting just a few feet away in a bush. Whenever I see a dragonfly, I think of my Mom who art in Heaven and I’ll often say, “Hello, Mama.” No, I don’t believe that the dragonfly is my mother, but I sometimes do think that God allows her to break through the veil that separates us, and a dragonfly is just one way that she can show that she’s here and she’s rooting for me and that she loves me still. This morning, inextricably, my iPhone made a montage of pictures of her with various family members and sent it to me in my notifications, and this was so nice and timely and unexpected, and I thought maybe this was another way of my Mom making herself known by the grace of God. I wonder. And I’m also wondering, do you believe in stuff like this? Well, today’s episode is all about signs and symbols, divine intervention, and the stories we tell ourselves about all of that. Today, we’ll try to the answer the question: does everything mean something?
I used to construct complicated narratives from the signs and symbols in my everyday life – I even wrote a whole book proposal about it called ‘Everything Means Something’. I do that less and less these days, but I remember my pre-teen daughter used to say, “Mom, everything does not have to mean something!” And I calmly assured her that yes, honey, actually it does. She loved that, by the way. My belief on this topic these days lies somewhere in-between a cynical pre-teen and the somewhat desperate narrative creator that I once was.
Signs and symbols are Biblical, of course. In the Book of Genesis, God talks about the rainbow in a cloud as the sign of the covenant He established between Him and all life on the earth. There are references in the Book of Luke and elsewhere about signs to come – in the sun, moon, stars, and waves. And God used signs in dreams to communicate things to His people many times in the scriptures. It’s clear that, according to our faith, this world is so much more than what we can see, hear, and touch. But when it comes to all of this unknown, I believe it is how we receive signs and symbols and how we interpret them that can tell a lot about the state of our spiritual lives.
I used to take the signs and symbols that I observed and use them to extrapolate elaborate stories about my life and the lives of my dear ones that went many years into the future. Oh gosh, as though we could ever predict it! I thought a cloud in the sky looked like a quill and thought that clearly meant encouragement from God for me to continue pursuing writing. There was a day that I saw eggs everywhere I looked and thought certainly there was a message to be found in them. You can hear all about that in a conversation I had with Amanda Whiting on her beautiful podcast, Holy Ordinary, which I’ll link for you in today’s show notes. I got a message this week from a friend who listened to the last episode of this podcast while walking his dog early one morning. The moment I mentioned engaging with water in that episode was the very moment he turned a corner and faced beautiful Plymouth Harbor. So, did God orchestrate this intersection of the timing of my podcast and his walk? Was it by design? Gosh, I kind of hope so because there is nothing better than feeling God in our details. It helps us feel seen and known, and it helps us to feel that there is a design to life, even when it’s chaotic, and even when we can’t make sense of it. It helps us, in this broken world that so often bewilders, to feel that God is still watching, still in charge.
This week I visited the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College and chatted with their director, Karen Kiefer. Friend, I want to let you know that at this point in time, our Raised Catholic community is s-m-a-l-l, so the idea that Karen, whose amazing center is doing the beautiful work of Church renewal – within driving distance of me, at that – well, that she would reach out to connect sure seemed like a divine appointment that I never could have facilitated on my own. I can’t believe I had never heard of the Church in the 21st Century Center, by the way. They have so many wonderful free resources for individuals, families, and parishes that I hope you’ll check out and I’ll link them for you in today’s show notes. Anyway, connecting with Karen and the Center that day felt somewhat unearthly, orchestrated, blessed, a door opened by God for a purpose. And I’ve seen so many other instances like this in the good things that happen. Great opportunities for my kids, relational doors, the things and people that came together for the good in a way I could never have forced.
But what about when they don’t? What about the picture of the future that I was sure God had given me about this or that, the stories I told myself based on so many signs and wonders, that haven’t come to pass? Maybe they will, I guess, in a way or time I haven’t thought of yet and could never orchestrate, or maybe these are things that I’ll treasure in my heart for the rest of my life in some combination of disappointment, trust, and open-handedness until I finally do understand the ‘why’ and ‘how’. And I guess I’m wondering, do you have things like this, things to which you thought for sure the signs were pointing, and if so, what do you do with them?
I believe God is at work making the most extraordinary tapestry, connecting us, our experiences, and our growth all together but that today, we can only see the underside of it which looks, honestly, kind of like a mess. Sometimes He does reach down and effect our daily lives, by maneuvering a sign or a symbol, a connection, an intersection, or a particular practical grace in order to move us forward. I still believe that. But I’m realizing as I get older that the story is not mine to write. The pen is not in my hand, so while I still notice and treasure and hope without too much specificity for the future, I try to do it now with open hands. God knows better, I believe that, and I can trust Him. Hunting for meaning is not a road to peace but knowing that there is meaning and surrendering to a good God to work it all out, well, that’s the road I want to be walking.
It’s His story. He’s the author. As the Bible says, He does know every hair on our heads and His eye is on the sparrow. So, when it comes to signs, that dragonfly that keeps returning to my porch might be a hello from my mother or maybe that’s just where he likes to hang out. The pictures I got on my phone today may have been the result of an algorithm that I do not understand, or maybe it was my Mom breaking through to give comfort to me and my family today. Or maybe, as Forrest Gump said at the end of that beautiful movie, maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.
It’s not mine to know or control, but it is mine to trust, and to look up and hope and wonder and know that one day, there will be meaning to be found in just about everything. Not because anything negative or harmful ever comes from the Hand of our very good God, but because He promises to work it all out for good, in His story and tapestry in which we are unique, beloved, and irreplaceable threads.
Thanks so much for listening today, friends. If you liked this podcast, would you please consider sharing it with a friend, rating, reviewing, and subscribing? That would be so helpful, and I’d really appreciate that, so thanks in advance. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. There are lots of links in the show notes today to help you to explore this topic a bit deeper for yourself but for now, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God, it is your tapestry and your story. Help us to see your kind hand at work as we keep our hands open in surrender for the many ways that you are at work in our lives for the good, the things we see and the things that we can’t see yet. We lift up our dear ones and everyone in most need today, and we thank you for every blessing in the name of Jesus, amen.
Thanks again for listening, friend, and I’ll see you next time.