As years went by and I got far enough away from Bible College that it couldn’t hurt me anymore I started thinking for myself about this whole “God is not silent” thing. I’d gone from unbelief, to disbelief, to belief and then finally to conditional belief. I still believed in God but decided that he didn’t really have anything to say to me personally, with a universe to manage and all, so he put into writing everything I’d ever need to know. At least everything from him. I didn’t really expect advice on changing the oil in my car or how to balance my check book to come from him or even his prophets.
But as I thought about the whole thing there were a couple ideas that I had to wrestle with. First, I was being tempted. There are all kinds of temptations and a ton of sources of temptation but there was one that we all seemed to accept, Bible College prof and all, and that was a temptation that came from outside of me via an evil spirit. It’s that thought that comes into my head from an entirely different direction than the one I’d been thinking or feeling in. The conclusion was that evil spirits could communicate with me but for some reason the Almighty was mum.
“Ah, but no,” my faithful pastoral friends would tell me, “the Holy Spirit convicts you when you give in to that temptation.”
“Yeah, he tells you to stop, that you’re doing something wrong.”
“Well, uh, not like ‘tells’ tells but you know what I mean.”
“So God is communicating with me in the moment, he’s not waiting for me to read it in the Book?”
“Well,” my friend would squirm when he realized where I was going with this, “in a manner of speaking.”
That was the closest I would get to a concession that God could and would talk to me outside of the Book.
And then I started thinking the second thought. “So the only time God talks to me now is when I’m screwing up?” This would, of course, make him like the majority of North American fathers who spend less than 7 minutes a day in meaningful conversation with their children and spend at least 70% of that time in negative communication about things the child had done or is doing wrong, had forgotten to do or had in some other way, let dad down. But the Book and experience had already proven to me that he wasn’t like a typical North Am father if he was anything at all.
I was pretty sure that God had something good to say to his children. My dad did, even when I messed things up a lot. My dad was great but if the press is to be believed, God loves me even more than my dad and has even more he wants to say and do with me.
So I flipped the switch and started listening again. And guess what, turns out, God’s not so silent after all.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s not great help when I’m picking out lottery numbers. He’s never advised me on stock investments. But there are times, lots of times, when he’ll whisper things to my heart that I really need to hear. Sometimes it’s about stuff in my life that’s distracting me from the best life God’s meant for me to live. Sometimes it’s just like the old Lifesavers commercial when the dad comes to the son at the end of the losing ballgame and hands him a Lifesaver and they walk out together. Sometimes he just reminds me of things that I completely forgot about at just the right time or he leads me into a moment of serendipity, a happy accident that brings something good and unexpected.
He comes in other ways too. Once I was going through a rough time. About 40% of the people in a church I was involved in thought I was a major screw up and one person even said publicly that I was corrupting the youth of P.E.I. Nice, eh? Got to love church folks! It was a very depressing time, one of those ‘I give up on God’ times that I’ve written about and we had just walked in the door when the phone rang. I didn’t want to get it, but I did. The voice on the other end was someone I hadn’t talked to in a year or two. “Hey,” he said, “I’ve got someone here who wants to say hello to you, hold on…” I could hear the phone getting passed along and then a big voice says, “Hello, Brian?” It was a guy whose music I collect, who I love and whose lyrics have meant a great deal to me in some rough times and some good times. The person I knew just happened to be with this guy in this moment, thought of me and thought it would be cool to track me down and give me a personal call from this singer/songwriter I admired. It was a very cool call but what I heard when I hung up the phone was the best part of the call, “I know where you live, I haven’t left you, there are people who love you right now that you aren’t even aware of but I am.”
Another time I didn’t feel like there were words but I could swear I saw a picture in my head. I was at a church service and two friends, women, were praying with a third woman. As I walked by I got this instant picture in my head (no, I didn’t see it in front of me or with my eyes) of the woman being prayed for. In the picture it was like I could see the hand of God reaching out to her with this great big gift of life. Her hand was held out to his but her hand was closed around some things that she felt she needed and couldn’t really take what God was offering her for fear of losing what she knew she had. I stopped and told the woman what I saw in my head and she started to weep. Oops. Turned out that the weeping wasn’t a bad thing though and the ladies praying with her took over and some amazing things happened in the woman’s life. It had nothing to do with me, it had to do with God saying something important in the moment.
Turns out there are all kinds of things the Book says, when you look for it, about him keeping in contact with his kids. In fact, a reasonably large part of the whole new deal he’s worked out for us in the last 1/3 or the Book turns out to include promises of him being in the here and now and telling us, when we listen, where to turn and when to go ahead. It’s not for profs or prophets. It’s not for scholars or wise men with long beards, funny hats and monasteries to live in.
An old tip if you’d like to give a listen, he’s not in the earth quaking, wind howling, fire raging, thunder cracking stuff. He’s in the whisper that’s quietly calling your name. And as St. Bruce says, listen for the laugh of love.