The Visual Voice Of God


"god spoke to israel in a vision at night and said, "jacob! jacob!"

(genesis 46:2)


God is not a human. I know, it's obvious right. But is it really how we view him on a personal level? I remember as a teenager a friend of mine asking God to convince him he was real by putting his bread down in the toaster right in front of him. I had myself many times in my early spiritual walk expected God to answer me back audibly, to write a letter or to speak to me as I would a close human friend. In reality, I was applying my understanding of human communication to a God who has no form, has never been seen and communicates on a level foreign to me.

Great songs don't tell the listener what they want to say they show them with beautiful imagery. What I've come to learn to greater degree's as I've lived with the Holy Spirit is that oftentimes he's exactly the same. A third of the bible directly or indirectly relates to a dream or a vision and that's aside from the many other poetic verses that in themselves take up an entire third of the sacred writings. Time and time again when God spoke through the prophetic voices in Israel's history he used images that showed Israel what he was feeling. Genesis tells us that God 'spoke' to Jacob in a vision of the night. In other words, his voice was visual. Jesus himself was no different, he came telling us what "the kingdom of heaven is like" and would start his answers to heavy theological questions with lines like "there was once a man..."

The kingdom of heaven could not be reduced to a one dimensional theological statement, but it could be likened to a story with its multi-dimensions, character plots and moral lessons.

Then, of course, entered Pentecost.

"in the last days, god says, i will pour out my spirit on all people. your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."

(acts 2:17)

Here again we see God showing what his kingdom is like. The promise that came with the birth of his church? That they would every one of them see the kingdom.

Visions and dreams are much like poetry in that they're not strict and informational, they're invitational. Seeing God's voice rather than hearing it engages our minds and creativity in a vastly different way than being told something or reading it in scripture. A vision invites the seer into a conversation with God and an exploration of meaning and understanding. Seeing a picture or a story requires that we think deeply about the life of that image, about its cultural context and about what it means to us. It doesn't save us the homework of processing it with God because he would far rather talk to us about something that matters to him than send us a letter or pop a toaster. 

The unique thing about a story or a picture is the way in which every individual brings their own perspective and understanding to it. It's a way of God personalizing his message to us, of making it intimate to us in our own history and understanding. It's the historical extension of Pentecost, a moment when all the church spoke together in unity but in different languages.

We have to do something with the promise of Pentecost because I'm worried that many of us consider it a take it or leave it promise. All is an incredibly strong word for God to use. There doesn't seem to be a soul on earth who can avoid enjoying the visual art of God in their life. I wonder if part of the reason we're so caught up on strict definitions and cultural boundaries is because we haven't learnt to understand God in parable and pictures. We haven't explored on a wide enough level in our communities what it looks like to live in the visual world of the kingdom of heaven. I wonder if so many people feel as though God never speaks to them because they're waiting for a few lines of prose to enter their minds or audio spheres, never being taught about the relationship between the Spirit and our imagination. Yet in the midst of our daily thoughts, prayers and dreams we may be seeing God in multiple hues of grace and love.

Being the poetry of God as Ephesians promises is undoubtably about every one of us embracing the colourful communication style of of the Creator. It's about breaking the restrictions of expecting him to sound human, look human and be human and engaging with him in the language of Spirit, the language of showing rather than telling, his language.

So, next time you're praying or meditating and you see a picture flash in your mind, take note of it and consider it. Follow it like the leading plot of a movie, ask the Spirit to add to it, expand it and apply it. Write it down and have a conversation with God about it. Share it with a mature friend and give it a little life. The worst that could happen is that you learn nothing from it. The best is that you may just begin a new conversation with the Author of your every intuition himself.

And whatever you do, don't miss out on the beautiful promise of Acts 2, that you and every one of us have the opportunity to hear and see the poetry of God in our own personal walks.