From Deaf To Life
"No one has ever seen God"
(1 john 4:12)
"God is spirit"
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in my spirituality in the earlier parts of my journey was the issue of hearing God's voice. From time to time I would meet people who would say "God told me" with such certainty that I'd leave the conversation feeling both divinely inspired and hopelessly distant from that very same God. I imagined somehow that they were more spiritual, had sharper ears or were simply far more favoured by God than I was.
But none of that was true.
There are so many different ways we can arrive at the point of being able to say that "God told" us ranging from impressions, niggling thoughts, community, dreams, conversations, songs and movies, or the scriptures and I'll look at a few of those in the next journal entry. But a better place to start is actually one step back from there because it's often our subconscious assumptions about God that stop us from hearing him more clearly.
No matter how old or experienced we are in life, moving from deaf to life requires learning a totally new way of being. I believe this is what Jesus meant when he said "you must be born again" (John 3:7) to enter the kingdom of heaven. When we're newborns we have to relearn everything - how to eat, communicate, rest, breath and hear. Spiritually, our rebirth into this entirely new way of being is exactly the same.
So I wanted to share five attributes of God that helped transform the way I understood hearing from him in my own life.
1. GOd is not a human
I know this seems like a painfully obvious truth to begin with but I wonder if subconsciously we may still sometimes expect him to speak as a human would. A human primarily speaks audibly, clearly, and often quite frankly. But God is Spirit and is discerned in a totally different way. In the Spirit we hear things inwardly, we are shown more than we are told because the Spirit moves in the realm of imagination and creativity. If the Spirit dwells within us then he is likely to show us through emotion, contemplation and imagery what he is saying rather than by yelling at a distance. That's why many talk about receiving a burden for something. What they often mean is that they've suddenly felt the weight of God's emotion for that thing and it begins to drive them in a new way. God is allowing them in on his feelings and it's driving their life in a new direction.
If human communication is believed to be only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal (body language etc), why not expect at least the same from the Spirit?
2. god is living within us
Do we really grasp the consequences of this? I know that I personally can slip into imagining when I'm praying that God is farther "out there" somewhere and when I do it changes my language from intimate to formal. But closeness was exactly what Jesus set out to achieve through his death, resurrection and giving of his Spirit to us at Pentecost. Now, the fullness of God that dwelt in Jesus also dwells in us through that same Spirit. If we don't slow down, silence ourselves and listen from within we will never be able to fully hear him.
God hears our thoughts and he feels our feelings and in return he gives us his own thoughts and his feelings. Whether or not we tune in and pay attention to him there is entirely up to us.
3. god is about process
We're all in a hurry. We want God to give us clear answers both when and how we want them but our Father is in the long game because it's there that finding the answer becomes transformative rather than informational. I have personally found the Holy Spirit to be far more like a socratic teacher who asks questions in return for mine, than a university lecturer spinning out content. It is through this process of searching for and considering what the answer may be that my mind is slowly transformed. Because God is first and foremost about our transformation we may also find that he answers our biggest questions over a longer period of time and sometimes without us even realising it. This patient process gives us the oxygen we need to mature into the kind of person that can receive the answer to the very prayers we pray. I've found personally that some of my deepest questions and longings have been answered over years and decades,
4. God is a storyteller
An entire third of the scripture is poetry and another third is made up of dreams (including the revelation or actions that directly relate to them). Both are far more inspirational than informational. The prophets tell the story God's passion for humanity through powerful images, metaphors, similes, puns and even irony. There was always a message in their poetry but it was not always clearly discernible. You only have to look at our recent history of futuristic predictions based on the apocalyptic writing of Revelation to see how poetic God really is! Jesus himself taught frequently in parables and poetic prose is employed by many of the writers of the New Testament.
God is no different in how he speaks to us today. This can be disorienting to us at first as we prefer to have straight up and down answers, but once we submit to the process the journey of discovery only becomes more exciting. Stories are powerful because they can present us with multiple dimensions in a single narrative. The longer you meditate on a parable the more layers of meaning you discover. Visions, dreams and prophetic words will often relate not only to our immediate future, but also to circumstances many years down the track and multiple times. These stories can apply to one situation in our lives or many and the more we seek it's multiple dimensions the deeper our understanding will be of who God is and what he's doing in our midst.
5. god is caring
God is gracious, loving and protective of us. This means that though we may want answers to our questions and circumstances immediately, it may be a greater act of love on His part to withhold the truth from us until we're ready for it. I know that my own children are not always ready for the answers to the questions they ask me. It's not that they wouldn't understand the concepts themselves, but that the other functions of their person haven't developed enough for it to be fruitful for them. If I showed them the 6 o'clock news for example they might believe that the world is far more dangerous and ominous than it truly is because they haven't experienced enough of it's beauty and safety yet. Every now and then God will also shelter us from an answer we're not mature enough to handle. It's humbling for us, but he is the Great Mind behind the cosmos after all. I think he may know best.
Everything about God is relational and as with all relationships learning to understand his voice takes time and practice, but knowing where to start can save us years of hurt and misunderstanding. I hope these few thoughts have been helpful!
I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below!