I’m trying to be the kind of person that applies the same standards to myself that I do to others. I’m sure there are many ways that I fail at this that I am oblivious to but it seems like a worthy pursuit.
When someone hurts me or offends me, instead of getting angry or bitter, I try to think of ways that I have done the same thing.
When someone lets me down, I try to think of ways I have let others down before I get up on my inner judgmental pulpit.
And when it comes to how we talk about God speaking, I try to say the same thing to myself that my internal monologue says to others:
‘Are you sure you’re not just crazy?!’
I believe that God speaks but it is exactly that : a belief.
I have no empirical evidence or scientific basis for it.
I can’t prove he has spoken to me or prove that he has not spoken to others.
But I believe he has spoken to me …
I believe that I heard his voice when I was driving home from a wedding when I was 18. I was asking him whether or not I should do marketing in college and I felt that he said:
‘That depends. Do you want to serve me full time or part time? Because you’ll always do ministry.’
I found a leaflet for the Irish Bible Institute in my car and started there the next week.
Before I left for my first speaking trip to North America in 2012 with $380 in my pocket, I asked him if I was doing the right thing. I believe that he responded and said:
‘I’ll provide for you as long as you don’t ask anyone for money.'
Last year I was offered a church planting job and I felt he said:
‘I didn’t call you to plant churches. I called you to write and speak.’
I believe God speaks … but I’m also highly skeptical. It’s not that I don’t believe he can, it’s just that there are so many voices in my head, I find it hard to figure out which one is his.
I’ve been praying recently about several opportunities that have come up and I don’t feel that I’ve heard anything back. As the time approaches for me to make decisions, I considered answering and saying:
‘God hasn’t spoken on it so I’m not sure what to do.’
Yesterday I was preaching on the lectionary text from Luke 24:13-35 known as ‘The Road to Emmaus.’ In the story, two disciples are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus when a stranger joins them on their journey. The stranger is the resurrected Jesus but they do not recognise him. They talk with heavy hearts about the crucifixion of Jesus to the crucified Jesus who explains to them that this was no accident but that Israel’s story and world history have been leading to this moment from the Books of Moses until now. As the sun is setting, the disciples arrive at their destination and invite Jesus to join them rather than journeying through the night. They eat together and, as Jesus breaks the bread, their eyes are opened and they recognise him for who he is. As soon as they do, Jesus disappears from their presence.
The disciples are blown away and immediately return to Jerusalem, their passion and celebration giving them to the energy to walk those seven miles in the dark.
This isn’t the sermon I preached yesterday, it’s just something that I was challenged about as I preached it.
It is incredibly arrogant of me to say that ‘God hasn’t spoke to me.’
Just because I’m not hearing doesn’t mean that he is not speaking.
Sometimes I’m not listening.
Sometimes I don’t recognise that it is him that is speaking.
But I love the grace that Jesus shows when he hides himself in order to teach them. Chances are that the disciples would have been unable to listen to an explanation of the death and resurrection in the presence of the one who had died and been resurrected. Sometimes Jesus must hide in order to be heard.
I love that Jesus walks seven miles in the wrong direction in order to speak to them even though he knows that revealing himself will make them turn around and walk it all again.
And I love that the presence of Jesus can give me the energy I need to walk back the way I came in the dark when I’ve not recognised his voice.
So here I wait and wonder. Will God speak? Has God spoken but I have not heard? Has God spoken but I have not realised it was him?
What gives me hope is not my ability to hear but his ability to speak … even when I’m going the wrong way.