By Merry Dougherty
On a recent college visit with our oldest son, he walked out of the information session and uttered (pun intended) these words, “Mom and Dad, you can try to make a cow move, but you really don’t get it to go anywhere until you prod it, and you guys didn’t prod me enough to study hard and get involved.” Really?
Of course my mind started churning, remembering all the nights I sat and explained to him how important it was to become more active at school and to always give his best effort academically if he wanted to go to a really good school. Of course, I didn’t have a prod to bump him on the shoulder or pop his bottom every time he elected to stop studying for the night. I also remember being met with, “Mom, I don’t want to do any of that. Those things are so weird.” And, “I think I’ve studied enough.”
I know we gave him every possible nudge to own his responsibilities and be motivated from within, so that he could one day earn acceptance to the college of his choice. Now that he is learning about the requirements that competitive schools look for in a student, he is mad because we didn’t push him hard enough.
As I muttered to myself at the audacity of my son’s comment, my husband chimed in, “It’s OK, your mom wants you to seize every opportunity that comes your way, but she doesn’t do it all the time either.” Oh the nerve! I was so taken aback, but then I realized that once again, he might be right.
How often in our daily lives are we being prodded by God to grow, to step out of our comfort zones, and to attempt something that may seem challenging or even weird to us. It may be a subtle nudge to kindly speak to a homeless stranger instead of ignoring the pervading thought to ignore him or her; to accept the invitation from a friend to work at the soup kitchen; or to finally follow that tiny desire to get up on Sunday morning and go to church with your whole family for the first time in years.
I’ll bet if we pay attention, we experience many small prods coming our way, presenting subtle opportunities from God to grow in any number of ways. The question is: Do we feel the nudge and move, or do we elect to stay in our comfortable place happily chewing our cud? Just like the cattle farmer nudges the cows on to what he knows is greener pasture, I believe that God desires that we all enjoy the green pasture that he has prepared for us.
I know, however, that God is not going to come down and poke us with a stick until we finally choose to move. He wants it to come from within. It is our choice. If we can begin to notice the small prods, accept them, and act on them, greener pastures await.
I love the quote by Neale Donald Walsch: “Life begins where your comfort zone ends.” Along the same lines, perhaps I could design a T-shirt, inspired by my son’s complaint: “Feel the prod; expand your zone!” Maybe this is what our son and his friends will get for a graduation present.
Merry Dougherty is a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church.
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