God spoke

So, God spoke to me while I was taking a hike today.

It actually took me a while to decide that was how I wanted to say it: “God spoke to me while I was taking a hike today.”

Most of the time, I water that truth down.  I imply that I think it was God.  Or I leave open the possibility that it was just random synapses firing and it seemed like God.  Or I shrug my shoulders and I admit that maybe I’ve got it all wrong.

Some of the time, it’s not a bad thing that I leave myself these outs.  There are times when I just am not sure if it is God.  And it drives me nuts when people use the “God Card” and try to use their belief that God is speaking to them for some form of gain.

But other times, when I fail to boldly proclaim what I know to be true, it’s just gutless.  Wimpy.  I recognize that the world says it’s crazy talk, to think that God is speaking to you, and in my cowardice I decide that it’s more important that the world judge me sane than I speak the truth.

Which brings me back to the beginning: God spoke to me while I was taking a hike today.

I was praying.  My mind was on some pretty sucky, scary things that are going on right now.  The words I used in my head, they were something like, “God would you please see me through these things.”

His response was “Jeff, in order to get through it, you have to get through it.”

Except for it wasn’t really those words, it wasn’t really any words, but it wasn’t images either.  And He didn’t put my name at the beginning, but it was so personally intended for me, that in some symbolic way it was almost like He responded with my name.

Bare with me.  It’s going to take some explaining to do a better job to explain what God said to me today.

Sometimes I ask for one thing because it’s the right question but what I really want is another thing entirely.  I might ask my wife, “Would you like me to cook dinner?” When I really want her to suggest that we eat out.  I might ask my kids, “Do you want to play now?” When I really want them to be busy doing something else so that I can read and write. 

I guess if I’m honest, I’ll admit the idea behind this is I can reap the benefits of things going my way with out having to look like I suggested it.

When God said “In order to get through it, you have to get through it.” I saw that the words I was praying were about right.  But the heart that I prayed them with, it wasn’t about right.  On the surface I was claiming to want God to accompany me through my troubles.

But beneath the surface?  What I really wanted was to be lifted up and out of them.  I didn’t want to go through them at all.  I didn’t want to own responsibility for this.  I guess I thought if I was subtle enough God would think it was his idea.  (Note sarcasm in that last sentence.  I don’t actually think I can fool God.)

So I’ve been meditating tonight on Jesus in the garden.  He was about to go through some epically sucky stuff.  And Jesus said, “God, I really don’t want to do this.  But if you want me to go through with it, I will.”

We often focus on the fact that Jesus was obedient.  And this is an amazing thing.  But the thing we can miss sometimes is that Jesus was also honest.  He was up front and honest: “God, I really don’t want to go through this.”

I guess that’s where I should have started today.  I wonder what God would have said to me if I had.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

7 thoughts on “God spoke”

  1. Hi Jeff,
    So what is it about the “God Card” that drives you nuts? Is it because you think these people are inauthentic, and actually haven’t heard what they claim from God? Or, what they claim is contrary to Scripture, or …? Clearly you do believe that God calls (as do I), so it’s not an issue of whether God actually speaks to us individually.

    I’m drifting more towards another side. The people that drive me nuts are those that claim that their interpretation of the scriptures addresses all known issues.

    — Vance

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  2. Great points Vance– and nice to hear from you. I should have been more clear about the “God Card.”
    There are some people who seek to justify the things they already wanted to do, and others who wish to manipulate me into doing things they want me to do. It is these sorts of people I tend to be highly suspicious of.
    I share your irritation with “the other side”
    selective literalism and failing to recognize nuances and context are real problems.

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  3. good post Jeff. it seems a lot of times for me as well that God often seems to say you must go through it and i get recalled to verses about perseverance, endurance, “suffering” and how these bring benefits. These benefits seem to not exist outside to context of perseverance, endurance, “suffering.” That I really don’t like too often.

    i believe i know where you’re heading Vance on the “their interpretation of scripture addresses all known issues,” but I also get irritated at those who quickly minimize scripture to only speak to a small pot of issues because the bible doesn’t use terminology of our modern systems of thought. When Peter says that God has given us everything we need for LIFE and GODLINESS, I think that includes a lot, including how to work through and “cope” with modern “new” discoveries. The teacher in Ecclesiastes says there is nothing new under the sun. But I’m not saying that in some secret bible code is E=MC2, but I am saying that maybe God is smarter than we think he was when He inspired the writers of Scripture and the ability of the Holy Spirit to speak Truth into our search of LIFE and GODLINESS.

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  4. Good, introspective and honest post about a touchy subject. You explained pretty well what it means when a person says, “God said this to me…” I talk to my closest friends that way, telling them that “God told me this…” but of course, I don’t mean I heard an actual voice. (Some people do mean that, and to me, that’s a bit scary.)

    The subject, though, of what you were asking and what you really meant behind your asking, that’s interesting.

    I still find myself praying, “Please do this for so and so…” as if I were telling God what to do, but I usually try to just pray “reveal your will to so and so in what they’re doing, and help them to accept it.”

    More and more I am finding that “the Lord’s prayer” is much more than a ceremonial recitation in church services or in private of a prayer composed by Jesus, that we tack on to all the other stuff we ask God or Christ to do.

    After following Christ for 34 years, it has finally come home to me that what we pray, regardless of how we say it, what words we use, really should be patterned after that prayer we call “the Lord’s”. When we pray that, we find ourselves praying briefly but boldly, asking God only for what He knows we need, not what we think we need or want. After all, this is what is going to happen to us anyway. Yet, John quotes Jesus as saying, “Whatever you ask in my name of the Father will be granted…” Could it be that asking in Jesus’ name is to ask what jesus asked in “the Lord’s prayer”? and if so, can anyone say the God has not been faithful in answering that kind of prayer?

    “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”

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  5. CORRECTIONS: Could it be that asking in Jesus’ name is to ask what Jesus asked in “the Lord’s prayer”? and if so, can anyone say that God has not been faithful in answering that kind of prayer?

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  6. Hey Jenn!
    So nice to hear from you. Though I’ve not been blogging much, I had noticed your absence. Thanks for the positive words!

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