One of the benefits of being a member of an online community like Patheos is that it gives us a chance to exchange ideas about faith, culture and more. Though most of us write collegially, side-by-virtual-side, we have occasional opportunities to interact with one another and with the diverse readers who visit the site. Patheos blogger have been invited to share our responses to one or any of the questions on this month’s “What Do I Really Believe?” landing page.
My answer to the question “Does God Talk To Us?” begins with a picture of a man I saw at a train station a few months ago. He was pacing back and forth along the tracks at the station, bouncing a red rubber ball in an irregular rhythm, and carrying on a very animated, completely disjointed conversation with himself. This interchange was punctuated intermittently with shrieks from the man, as if a third peson was attempting to interrupt the conversation.*
Some people go right to this sort of image when you tell them you believe God speaks to you.
I do not own a red rubber ball. And when I speak, it is in one single voice, to God.
But it is a two-way conversation nonetheless.
There is no way to answer the question of whether God talks to us from a purely rational place. To support my contention that the answer is an unqualified yes, I could point at the Bible’s words, nature or the history of people who’ve done courageous, self-sacrificing acts (Hudson Taylor, Mother Theresa) after they claimed God spoke to them. I also know there are a variety of barbed arguments against the possibility that are designed to redirect us back to the image of the man at the train station: Only deeply disturbed people believe that God talks to us.
My affirmative answer certainly rings the bells as an affective response. It is based on a lifetime of my own experiences – even before I thought I believed there was a God. It is supported by the Bible’s words, creation, and the testimonies of others. However, my experience with God’s responses to the kinds of questions that continue to form my prayers and shape my responses have convinced me that he is responding to me:
- Are you there?
- Can you help me?
- Will you direct me?
- Will you forgive me?
- Do you love me?
I have stories big and small of a word or sentence not of my own making landing on a bulls-eye deep in my soul. I have a few experiences of someone else praying for me, speaking words in prophetic obedience to God that must have been wildly out of left field as they ventured to say them, but they were dead-on accurate about things I’d been content to keep in the shadows of my life. (Until then, anyway.) I’ve had a few “thin places” experiences where the veil between heaven and earth becomes so porous that all the limitations of language becomes obvious; there are no words to adequately describe what it is like to sense God’s presence.
Like those long silent stretches of no-exit interstate across the belly of South Dakota, my journey with God has also been characterized by periods where my communication (and communion) with God has been stilled. Doubt, despair, spiritual flat tires, and the conspiracy of busyness have sometimes shouted down his voice. Or, more accurately, they’ve untuned my heart from his frequency. There are other times when he speaks through the paradox of his silence with me in order to recalibrate me.
From thin places to barren highways, I believe he speaks.
What do you believe? Does God talk to us? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject!
*I talked to God about this man when I watched helplessly as he wandered away when the train arrived. I wondered if I should have called the police to make sure he got to a safe place, and I prayed for his safety that day. I am again talking to God about him as I write this post, asking for mercy for him – for God’s care, comfort and freedom, the right meds and people to watch out for him. If you’re reading this and you’re a praying person, I’d appreciate it you’d add a word of prayer for him, too. Thanks.