Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hearing God

Someone made a comment the other day that gave me pause: "People rarely 'hear' God. So if they want to know what He has to say they should go to scripture." That's a rough translation, but you get the basic idea. It was stated as fact, but I'm not so sure I agree. Or maybe I agree with a few extra words thrown in there. Like I might agree with this statement: "People rarely try to hear God. So if they want to hear from Him, they usually go to scripture."

I don't know about anyone else... but I hear God every time I try to. With very few exceptions. I can think of only a couple of times in my life when God was completely silent when I tried to hear from Him. So I asked God this morning if I'm just an exceptionally rare bird, or what. He can sometimes be really circuitous and vague, but his response was, "Everyone is different." Gee thanks. Not to be rude, but that's really not a helpful answer. Well not helpful for people who want to hear God and don't know how to. So... if you don't hear God, I'm sorry. I wish I could help you. But so far God hasn't told me how to explain it very well... yet.

So on to the second half of that: "If you want to know what God has to say, go to scripture." That statement just brings up a lot of questions for me regarding scripture and my beliefs about it. Do I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God? Since errant people wrote it, errant people translated it, and errant people edited it... I'd have to say no to that question.

Is scripture any more God's word than the words He speaks to me? I almost said, "Hell, no." But I guess that would be kind of inappropriate... so: "No." I believe that when God speaks to me, it is His "Word" and that he means what he says. Otherwise it wouldn't be him speaking to me. BUT generally the words God speaks to me are FOR me... regarding things that are private and personal and quite frankly none of your business.

So how about this: what if the things that are pertinent to everyone and useful for everyone are recorded (however roughly) in scripture. And the things that are just for me (or you) are imparted straight from God. Does that make as much sense to you as it does to me?

The question still remains: what do I believe about the Bible? I've struggled with this question over time. I suppose my thoughts at this point are still vague. I do believe God inspired people to write down the story that is held in the Bible. It's the story of mankind, and anyone who loves history knows how important it is to actually write these things down. I believe that there are principles in the Bible that are important and useful to our daily lives. The accounts of Jesus' life, for example, are vital insight for us regarding the best way to live.

In the end, though, I think it's foolish for us to assume that we can get all we need from God and about God from scripture. It's like saying I could find out all there is to know about the world from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Yes, there's a lot in there. But there's a difference between reading about lilacs and smelling them. There's a difference between seeing a picture of the ocean and standing on its shores with the salt air in your lungs. I believe that God created us to know him and be known by him. That includes reading about other people's experiences with him, but reading is nothing compared to experiencing God in an intimate and personal way.

You may be asking, "HOW??" Like I said earlier, God has not yet imparted to me the best way to explain this. But I can tell you how it happens for me... how I hear God. Usually I close my eyes because, although I'm not ADD, sometimes I do get distracted by shiny objects. Then I say (in my head), "Hey, G, what's up?" or something like that. He laughs along with us and then starts talking. In my head. I hear the conversation in my mind. I ask questions, he answers. He says, "Hey, M, what's up with you?" And sometimes I'm honest and sometimes I'm not. But he knows and I know he knows and we agree to discuss it later when I'm ready. Sometimes he's brutally honest with me about how deplorable my behavior has been. Sometimes he just loves on me.

Okay, so now you think I'm schizophrenic and I hear voices in my head that are actually alternate personalities battling for control of my mind. But please trust me... it's not that way at all. Most of the things that God says to me are not things I would ever come up with on my own. Sure, his responses are colored somewhat by my own personality, sense of humor, etc. But as God said earlier, "Everyone is different." He comes to me in a way that works for me. Maybe it's different for you. But, why don't you try it? Close your eyes, say hello to God, then just listen (inside your head - not to what's going on around you).

If that doesn't work for you, find another way. What's important is that you find a way to connect with God. Some way that's personal, not just relying on the written experiences of others.