“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord…”-Proverbs 20:27
I start with this picture because the difference between His voice and ours is huge…do we hear His voice, or does He speak to our spirit that in turn speaks to us?
Its a subtle distinction…maybe not important…but often I find my spirit chatty and Him not.
I was finally alone…I had flown (with the help of a good friend) my wife back to OKC and she had picked up Leahbeth (18 months old) and Rena (6 months old) and flown back to Tucson…I was in the parsonage of my very first church “Oasis of Love Christian Fellowship” in the panhandle of Oklahoma…
My wife had left me with the two kids and decided she no longer wanted to be a wife, a mother, and especially not a pastors wife and she had gone back to the last place she felt free…I convinced her she needed the babies and they needed her so she had agreed to take them for a while until I could get sorted in the life change she was forcing.
I had two weeks left where the parsonage rent was paid, probably $20.00 in the bank and no options for work in a slowly dying oil-field town. Our car had been disassembled by a mechanic and he gave up so it was not an option I was without “wheels”, and I was now jobless, soon to be homeless, broke and kind of trapped there with a broken heart and a destroyed world…this would be my first real experience with silence and the heart numbing sense of loneliness that went with it.
Maybe that’s why I am so reluctant to engage it now, who knows?
I was 24 what did I know then, and more to the point what do I know now?
I knew to pray.
Pray and fast.
Seek the Most High…and that is what I did…(and do)
As I look back now it is probably one of the most humorous examples in my experience of learning to hear the Lord…here’s the cliff notes version:
I went into a closet after fasting for several days…in this closet I waited and listened for the Lord to teach me how to hear Him…He said “Listen to the noise out on the street”…I could hear cars driving by….“Ok, now bring it in a little, listen to the noise in the yard…” I could hear birds and wind…“Ok now listen for sounds in the living room…” I could hear the clock on the wall…“Ok listen to the kitchen…” I could hear the refrigerator humming…
“Now listen to the sounds in this room…” I could hear the drip of the bathroom faucet…
“Ok bring it in even more…” I could hear the rustle of my shirt as I breathed and my own breathing…“Ok once more bring it in even more…” I could hear my body and perhaps thought I could hear my own heartbeat…
Then…the growing sense of silence poured out…
The process took several hours but seemed just as quick as you can read it.
In that clear moment God spoke and asked me what I needed…I needed a car, a way out of this town since I had obeyed Him and closed the church sending them back to the fellowship they had split off from…He asked for specifics, what kind of car, what color…I gave it and in less than 2 weeks time that exact car pulled into my driveway and I was given a car by the owner that I in turn sold and moved to Tucson with…and as the journey continued my wife came back to me and we were restored for at least another 12 years and 3 more kids…
It was a profound experience…that really is funny when you think about it…here I am wanting to hear the Lord and the whole exercise is Him speaking to me and me following His instructions…it never occurred to me until many years later that the thing I was seeking was speaking to me the whole time and I was “hearing” as I learned to hear.
It has been a lifetime lesson to learn that the One I was seeking was seeking me and this is one of the truest pictures of His nature…”Adam where are you? is not simply a question, it is a characteristic of how and who God is with us…when you truly connect with Him, you find Him asking questions.
The questions you have are all meant to lead you to a better question, which is the one He wants you to ask…Gods silence is not a reflection of neglect, it is a divine set-up meant to get you to ask the question He has been dying to answer all along…
Elijah will run to the mountain and hide in a cave, and eventually hear “a still small voice” which is a terrible translation of the Hebrew…the actual Hebrew says it is the “Sound of silence completely emptied out”….
This process of hearing God is probably one of the most difficult and yet natural things we do…it is a major paradox that we know His voice since we are His sheep, but then struggle to discern it from all the other voices…
That sound of silence poured out can turn a hired shepherd watching a bunch of sheep he married into, to a guy bringing down the gates of empire with a stick and a stutter, it was the difference for Elijah of a voice he had known his entire life as a prophet, into a sound that would change destiny and even in a “run-away” mode God had an upgrade for the prophet but it was not in the usual place or in a familiar voice.
It required a wilderness and silence.
Recently the Lord has impressed upon me to “Be still” the rest of the verse implies knowing He is God…and the part that is my responsibility is to be still…which for me is the hardest part.
We are constantly barraged with a thousand voices screaming for our attention like being at a Indy Race track, we get a few seconds of shouting in to the people closest to us, but between the loud-speakers, the car engines and the crowd its a crap shoot if anyone really hears us and we often wonder if we understood what they said to us as well.
But all of the major miracles I can point to came out of this kind of silence…asking God to heal my Mom who was in a coma with a 2% chance of living, and no chance of not being a vegetable if she did live…I heard Him say He would heal her and so I went home never looking back…it was 5 months before she awoke, she was completely comatose and then one day she sat up and over the next year her complete healing manifested…to this day the Doctors require a specialist to read her X-rays because where her pancreas should be is something that can only be described as a cloud.
Or my first grandson Alden…he was born with gastroschisis for the first months of his life it was touch and go in intensive care since they immediately took him into the surgery when he was born…his mom Rena stayed with him in ICU for the first few months…I would drive the 2 hours to spend the weekend with her and finally one Friday she called me while I was on the way and just broke down saying “Dad, I can’t take it anymore, he’s not getting better and I don’t know what to do”…
I did…and when I got to the hospital I told her to leave and come back in an hour…in that hour I found that silent place and all the nurses somehow left the ICU as well…and I reached out and held his little hand placed a simple demand of the Father for healing…within a week he was healed and released.
Perhaps it is desperation that forces us to shut down the race track of noise…for some of us that’s the only time we do…but it shouldn’t be…
I know there are no guarantees in life…but I have never found that silent spot to be empty of faith and hope because His Presence is so overwhelmingly direct there.
I suspect He treasures that space enough to give us whatever we ask because it is just as Holy to Him as it is to us.
Look for the silence.
Because the One who is silence itself is looking for you.
The purpose of Gods silence is to speak louder than His voice.
The Wilderness is probably the best place for this, and perhaps the main agenda of heaven for sending us out here…it was here Moses encountered “I am that I am” and threw down his staff and then went on to deliver an entire nation from empire. I wonder what would happen if every pastor of every church in Western culture just went out into the wilderness, let their staff go and waited for the Silence to respond…
When God said to me “Be still” it made me realize I had not been asking the right questions…Who are You trying to be for me here? Why are all these relationships stripped away and I am so disconnected? Who am I supposed to be right now…? Why is it so damn quiet in my world…oh…wait…I’ve been here before…oh…yeah…silence…I remember now…You are in the silence.
So I am trying once more to silence the race cars of a thousand questions and a thousand conversations I have been having, turn off the loud speakers and wait…and that means accepting the silence myself…waiting…
Sting will suggest that the purpose of modern music is to put a frame around silence, that our lives are so noisy that the best music simply points us to hear the silence.
I like that.
What if God wanted people on earth who could sit in His courts in Heaven and help adjudicate, but the thing missing most was people who could be still…?
I am coming to believe that God wants to speak louder by His silence, than what we are used to hearing in His voice…but it will require a commitment to listen.
And lately (as I update this post) the Lord rebuked me in a very kind way, He said “When you doubt that you have heard, you are not doubting your ability to hear, you are doubting my ability to speak, I said MY SHEEP HEAR MY VOICE…either they hear, or my words are not true…I am perfectly capable of making sure you hear me, so it is illegal for you to doubt.”
So reluctantly…I’m starting to enjoy the wilderness, not so much for its bareness now as for its silence…originally it was painful…but now I sense His Presence is much closer than before…
I think this also might be a reflection of maturing love…to be able to sit in silence and simply enjoy the other…
Don’t try this at church, it might get you in trouble.