I once heard that the best way to get men to open up emotionally is to allow them to talk without facing each other. I’m not sure about the research, but I guess there is something about the open road that makes us vulnerable like a bunch of teenage girls at a slumber party.
Case in point: a bandmate of mine and I embarked on a six hour drive to Los Angeles from San Francisco to promote our debut album. The road trip afforded us a lot of time to talk about each other’s stories, and inevitably, the subject of God came up.
My friend let me in on how his interaction with Christians as well as his own search for truth had led him to a place where he couldn’t believe in the existence of God, let alone believe in the idea that God loved him.
For some reason it didn’t occur to me that most people who are actually wrestling with a belief in God, would have already tried what I was about to suggest. Naively, I eagerly recommended that all he needed to do was to pray to God. God would somehow swoop him up in an emotional experience and reveal himself to my friend, and that would be the end of that story.
His response was like curveball I didn’t see coming, “Of course I’ve tried praying; I’ve tried praying a lot”. Confused as to why that didn’t do the trick, I asked, “Well, how did that go?”
He answered, “For the most part, it felt like it was simply a pious way of talking to yourself.”
I was stumped. Speechless. Not because his answer was clever, but because deep inside I guess I echoed a similar sentiment.
Growing up in the church world it was common for people to unabashedly claim that God spoke to them. When I would probe deeper, what most of them meant was that they had a sense of what God was telling them (not actually hearing him audibly―which by way is a huge difference). But hardly any of them cared to take the pains to make the important distinction.
I remember a middle-aged man claiming that God told him his wife-to-be was going to come from their church’s young adults ministry, which is why he felt “called” to serve in that area (I won’t even describe to you what I really feel about that).
Another friend of mine told me that he saw a vision of a girl’s wrist with a specific watch strapped around it. He then continued to speak of how God told him that the girl in his dream would be his wife. It didn’t surprise me that the girl happened to be the hottest girl in church. And by the way, it didn’t happen. Not by a long shot.
Where does this leave us?
We are a people in need of guidance. We need help in navigating our relationships. We need direction for our careers, and if God had anything to say about these issue then the information would be utterly important.
But the problem is, how do we know if God still truly speaks? And if he does, how do we hear him? How do we know we’re simply not projecting our agenda and masking it to be the voice of God? How do we make out his voice from all the other voices that compete for space in our heads? Heck, how do we even know that our dreams and visions aren’t just last nights lechon (suckling pig) trying hard to digest itself?
While we’re tempted to give up and walk away from the idea, Jesus insists that his sheep know his voice. This indicates that God is willing―and has probably been trying―to speak. And the issue may lie in our ability to decipher when it is he is talking.
Through this simple invitation, the Psalmist gives us a place to start.
Be still and know that He is God.
Such a herculean task for us us moderns who are geniuses at having created every possible form of distraction. We are notorious for filling every space, we’ve forgotten that rests are just as crucial to music as notes being played.
“Step out of the traffic!” the translator of the Message bible tells us. Which feels closer to the actual Hebrew which literally screams “Vacate!”
Seriously take a break and realize that the world will still run without you. After the hiatus, you are then set up for the following crucial step: Know that He is God.
An ultra slow and unhurried word. Requires basking, stubbornly staying until you get it.
Get what, you say? Well… get that, ultimately, that there is someone who is in control and that it is not you, it’s God.
Essentially, the sons of Korah are asking us to come down the high chair from which we try to direct our lives and fall into the hands of the only one who truly is in control: God.
It is through the intentional carving out of time to meet this God that we might get a chance to actually hear his voice.
When we take the time to unhurriedly invest in an intimate relationship with God through prayer and meditation on the scriptures (probably our best guide to helping us get a glimpse of the character of this infinitely great God), there begins to be a sense that even if we never hear God’s audible reply, we will be able to make out the tones of his voice as he speaks to our spirit.
For example, every time we worry and are anxious about the future, we know that those voices aren’t from God. From his word, we know he always calls us to rest and trust in him, to not fear. Over and over again he promises to provide for us, giving us a hope for a better tomorrow.
What would your world look like if you cultivated a better response time to identifying the voice of God―especially in circumstances that are filled with tension and confusion? Imagine how quickly we would reach for the peace that is already available to us. Think of the confidence you would have in every season of life. And, oh, visualize your batting average for allowing joy to reside in your heart.
The question for us today is not a philosophical one. It’s not something to be left up in the clouds as if we could never get an answer.
The question for us today is a practical one. If we want to make out God’s voice and have access to the wisdom of the creator of the universe, then, regardless of personality type ― what may or may not come naturally to us, or our capacity for attention ― we need to begin to train ourselves to sit still and seek this God. Not in a legalistic way where you feel you are being guilt-tripped into it, but through a common sense understanding that the number one enemy of intimacy is hurry. And this is true for all our relationships.
The challenge for us is to try to build this in in our overly scheduled worlds that conspire to take every ounce of time we have. Our souls are desperate for the voice and the breath of God, more than we even realize. His word is indeed Life to all who hear.