“If God speaks anywhere, it is into our personal lives that he speaks…”
– Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
God knows our thoughts even before we do (Psalm 139). And having heard all our thoughts, God must have a lot to say. Could our lives be open libraries full of the other half of our conversations with God?
Buechner says, “[God] speaks not just through the sounds we hear, of course, but through events in all their complexity and variety, through the harmonies and disharmonies and counterpoint of all that happens… [but] to try to express in even the most insightful and theologically sophisticated terms the meaning of what God speaks through the events of our lives is as precarious a business as to try to express the meaning of the sound of rain on the roof or the spectacle of the setting sun… ” (Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation).
When I first began the “precarious business” of deciphering God’s messages, I kept listening for what God was trying to teach me. I was sure I was doing something wrong and that God, ever vigilant, wanted to fix me.
Then, in my spiritual direction training, Steve Imbach shared this story.
Steve said, “Once when I was travelling, I spent a sleepless night on an uncomfortable bed. In the middle of the night I cried out, ‘God, what are you trying to teach me? I’d like to know, so I can learn it and get back to sleep.’ Immediately I heard the inner voice of God reply, ‘I’m not trying to teach you anything.’ That’s when I realized God isn’t always trying to teach us stuff.”
Imagine a long-term relationship with someone who’s only concerned with what they can teach you. There would always be a distance between the two of you, with one feeling burdened and the other inadequate.
Jesus loves us and does express that love by guiding and correcting us, but he is more than a teacher. He is also our friend, our brother, and our husband (since the church is the bride of Christ). So he expresses his love in many ways: by comforting us when troubled, by bringing reconciliation and healing, and by helping us find meaning and purpose. He enjoys giving us what we need and hides these gifts out in the open for us to find. More than anything else, Jesus loves being with us.
And he keeps telling us that in a God kind of a way… a heart in a mug handle, a finger-painted sunset, a cancelled appointment that gives us breathing room, and a cell phone that survives being run over by a car.
This is my Father’s world.
He shines in all that’s fair.
In the rustling grass, I hear him pass.
He speaks to me everywhere.
— Maltbie D. Babcock, “This is My Father’s World,” 1901.