“Babe, I think God still speaks” I heard on the other end of the line.
I still remember where I was, nestled underneath our down comforter in the 1940s “cabin” that was our first home. As we were doing renovations on this rental (in exchange for our rent) we discovered the master bedroom had no insulation. Literally. In August when we uncovered this little quirk it was funny; in December it was distressing.
The sun had set on the east coast and I had a night “off” from ministry. I was warming myself in the only place possible, under that down comforter, while Nate was having his own brush with heat.
At a Young Life staff conference in Colorado, he and another friend had met the new staff person on the block — a 50-something who was re-entering the “work force” after her children were mostly raised. And, after one of the evening sessions, they were all sitting around telling stories when this woman began to show her cards. As she shared her testimony of God’s work in her life, it didn’t stop — like most I had heard up until that point — at her moment of conversion. The stories that proceeded revealed a woman who was saved unto something.
She heard from God. Often. Through impressions deep in her spirit, dreams and visions. Just like the Bible says.
I had anecdotes in my back pocket from my early days as a believer where God was real and I had tangible evidence of His breaking through the expanse between heaven and earth to make Himself personal to me. But they were few. I had settled into believing that each person was allotted a small number of these in their lifetime.
Nate, on the other hand, had made more of a conscious intellectual decision about this topic after much study and conversation. To Him, the God of Acts, the God who gave specific direction and spoke through angels, had ceased functioning in that way when that chapter of the Bible was closed.
His chance conversation with this woman came on the heels of a prayer both of us had prayed (independently of one another) just months earlier. God, if there is more of you than what we are experiencing, show us. Our hearts had grown notably cold. As comfortable as we were talking with people about God, our discomfort with our own experience with Him was obvious — at least to ourselves. So I suppose the hungry heart was more willing to receive new data than the one that was satisfied.
And he couldn’t wait to tell me about it.
She wasn’t crazy like we had inadvertently categorized so many who claimed to have heard from God. Her stories, though some wild, were mostly personal. God was flesh to this woman. And there was no denying that she was in love. On top of this, she knew His word better than any layperson we’d come across (again, flying in the face of our previously construed perspectives on those who “heard” from God).
Like two children, giddy with the mystery that life presents to youth, Nate and I set out on a scavenger hunt to discover if God really was one who speaks. Daily. And often.
Nate hit the books. Commentaries, autobiographies and various theological exegetics filled our shelves. He spent the beginning of that next year writing his seminary response paper on the voice of God and what scripture had to say about it.
While he studied, I experimented.
For some of the first times in my life, my prayers became listening prayers. I wanted to hear what God might say to me. And I chose to risk being wrong (something that had made me averse to this pursuit before) in order to have a few encounters with the God I had dedicated my life to. I asked for God to speak to me in dreams. I prayed for visions like those of the early believers.
After a year or so of asking questions, studying, informally interviewing those gray hairs around us who had walked the Bible, we made a major course correction. Although, at the time it felt only natural. Simultaneous to our prayer if there is more of you, God, show us our personal lives had begun to get rocked. In small ways, then which became greater ways later. And as I’ve seen in so many, personal hunger for God was birthed out of pain and perplexity. If you can endure the pain, rather than avoid it at all costs like you might want to, there is dramatic life change to be had on the other side. The hunger which comes out of pain creates a space to receive Him in ways that go beyond the limitations of our mind and flesh.
The bitter really does become sweet, see.
Nine years later and that scavenger hunt has become a road map. His Word (and, I suppose I should hasten to clarify, His written Word) led the way.
This weekend, a friend remarked to us, “any plateau is dangerous.” And my experience with God, prior to that fall of 2001, had been one of constantly making provisions for my plateaus. I’d built a personal theology around creating excuses for a God I’d slowly settled for as boring.
When in actuality, I was boring.
At fifteen, I signed up to follow a God who would change my whole world. But when my resistance to change grew stronger than my desire for encounter with a a dynamic God, I subtly relegated Him to being a man whose story was captured in full in the pages of a history book.
But God had mercy on my broken heart. And He broke my world. So that I might ask for more.
Then He gave me a taste of more. And I was ruined for anything less.
Tonight, that God who spoke to my 50-something friend, is waiting to speak to me. And tomorrow, He has plans for me, if I would just listen. There is not one single day intended for boredom in the kingdom of God.
Lately He’s been whispering to me time is short.
I only have 80 years on this earth, give or take a few. Oh, God, let not one day be wasted.