I once saw a movie that involved some form of serum that endowed the partaker a God-like ability – to hear the thoughts of those around him. To know what others are thinking. At first, the people who took the serum found their newfound powers to be liberating and empowering. However, they quickly realized that people don’t stop thinking. That means the voices they heard never ceased. Each one slowly came to realize that life as they now knew it was untenable and committed suicide. Perhaps this is why God does not bombard us with minute-by-minute details of how to live our lives. We weren’t made for that kind of communication.
So what does God do with God’s thoughts? How does God communicate with us. I’ve recently embarked on a more intentional journey to answer these questions. I want to hear God, but I want to hear God on God’s terms. In his book Hearing God, Dallas Willard lays out four ways of being with God. These aren’t new thoughts or ways of being with God, but I did find it helpful to hear them again from someone I trust.
Simple Trust – I believe that God is present with us. Theology and biblical studies say it is so. Faith is believing what is not seen (and not heard). So even when I do not see or hear God, I still believe that God is present. I think this is a gift to all believers, to all who desire to see and hear in the kingdom of God. However, I don’t think this kind of being with God can sustain the robust growth and maturity we are called to in Jesus.
Someone is Looking at Me – Have you ever been reading a book, or sitting alone in a crowded room and have the strange feeling that someone is staring at you only to look up and find out someone indeed is staring at you? That’s weird. While I can’t explain the physics of it (though it probably has something to do with psycho-energetic systems), I do know it happens. In the same way, I have felt God’s presence, as if God was staring intently at me trying to get my attention. Those moments we feel, not just believe, God with us. While this awareness of God thinking about us (as many thoughts as there are grains of sand) even this way of being with God is not enough to sustain the robust growth and maturity we are called to in Jesus.
What? How? – Then there are those God moments in our lives where we simply can’t explain what or how or anything about them except that God intervened. Healing, words of knowledge, mysterious money showing up in your account, speaking a language you never knew, and other such “miraculous” stuff. Miracles happened all the time in Scripture, but that doesn’t seem to be what sustained the believing community. In fact, Jesus refused to be with us in this manner any more than necessary. He must have thought that not even the miraculous can sustain the robust growth and maturity we are called to in him.
Conversational Relationship – Finally, being with God as one is with a friend is something that is greatly attested to within the history of Christian experience. There are countless stories of saints – broken people made whole just as are broken people being made whole – who give witness to this kind of reality. Not crazy-making minute-by-minute directions, but genuine give and take conversation. If we walk in the light then we have fellowship with God. If we truly are called to be friends of God, then we must truly be called to converse with God.
I’m at home in the second form of being with God – the God of impressions. I’m realizing that growth is limited. I need more. Not more knowledge, not more skills, not more education, but more Jesus. I need to learn to be with Jesus as a friend is with a friend. Hopefully I’m on my way.
What about you? Where are you at home in being with Jesus? Where do you want be?