AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Niagara Falls is a collection of three waterfalls which span the border of the United States and Canada. Collectively, these three falls can pour as much as 750,000 gallons (2,839,058 liters) of water down every second. Think about that. That is a ton of water. Now turn on your tap at home and see how much water it’s throwing down. Doesn’t even begin to compete, does it? Well, the vast difference in water volume between these two sources gives us an excellent way to explain how the language of your soul compares with the language you speak out loud. You talk to God with your soul, and your soul is like Niagara: the volume and depth of feeling it can communicate in a single moment is incredibly vast. Compared to the efficiency and richness of your soul’s language, that verbal language you use is like the water coming out of your tap: even on full blast, it just doesn’t take you where you want to go.
So why is it important to understand the enormous difference between these two forms of communication? Well, look around at the Church and what do you see? Christians spending an enormous amount of time confessing sins, chanting prayers, and pleading with God over and over again for various things. Why is there so much distress happening in our prayer lives? Even worshiping God can become an enormously frustrating experience when you just can’t find the words to convey the depth of your admiration for Him. Ever find yourself so frustrated with words that you start trying to convince God of how serious you are by adding on physical behaviors? Fasting, kneeling, bowing, weeping, injuring our bodies, kissing a cross or some likeness of Jesus—why do we go through all of these external behaviors? Because we’re trying to convey sentiments to God that words just aren’t capable of saying.
As a prayer language, verbal words are miserably insufficient. They lack depth, so we try to compensate with repetition. And pretty soon we find ourselves chanting those same prayers to God over and over again, all the while worrying if He’s really understanding how important the current crisis is to us. Or He’s got us caught in some miserable situation and we’re hating every minute of it, but we’re so worried that He’ll get the wrong idea if we complain. So we don’t complain, and instead we force out a bunch of praises and try to pretend we’re doing alright just so He’ll understand how devoted we are. Or we do complain only to then feel terribly guilty and rush to try and convince Him that our own misery isn’t as great as our love for Him.
Ever hear some really irreverent, snarky remark fly out of your mouth at God only to then feel horrible afterwards? What do you do? You start apologizing over and over and trying to say how much you love Him, but you worry that you sound like one big hypocrite to those holy ears. Verbal languages are landmines, and with humans we learn how easy it is to get ourselves in major trouble with one slip of the tongue. With humans, one insult can’t be repaired with one compliment. If you let some sharp zinger fly out at your wife, you’re going to have to seriously work to repair the riff. With humans, there is deep distrust and raging insecurity which must constantly be contended with. You try to give your girl a compliment but she won’t receive it because you didn’t use the right tone, or because you hesitated a few seconds too long, or because you picked the wrong adjective. We depend on words to communicate with each other, but they can so quickly get us in a mess. Words are just too shallow and inefficient. In English, we say “I love my child” and “I love chocolate.” We’re stuck with the same word to describe two vastly different sentiments and it’s frustrating. When it comes to God, there we are again, forced to talk to Him like we talk about chocolate. “I love You, God.” Wow, talk about unsatisfying. We want our communication to God to be special because He’s special, but there just aren’t enough words in our language to set a bunch of them aside for Him. So it’s mess. And we’re frustrated. And yet all of our frustration would quickly dissipate if we just understood the way things actually work.
You talk to God with your soul, not your words. You pray in a spiritual language which is incredibly rich and deep and sufficient. The language your soul uses is not limited to some set of sounds which are each associated with a bunch of unrelated concepts. When your soul communicates its love to God, it’s like Niagara Falls: it’s 750,000 gallons in the blink of an eye. Try to fill a bucket at Niagara Falls. No sooner do you get the thing partway under that torrential downpour than it’s filled to overflowing. Stick the same bucket under your sink at home, crank that faucet up to full blast, and you’ll be standing there tapping your fingers for some time before it’s full. This is the difference between soul communication and verbal communication. When your soul talks to God, it instantly downloads huge volumes of sentiment. When you try to talk to God in your head with those verbal thoughts, you find yourself stringing together sentence after sentence and still coming nowhere close to conveying everything you want to say. Trying to communicate complex feelings to God with words is like handing Him a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing and hoping He’ll fill in the blanks with the right things. But your soul always gives God a complete, three-dimensional picture.
By the time you start trying to compose a repentant prayer in your mind, your soul has already communicated its remorse to God and He has already responded with pleasure. By the time you start trying to explain your worries with words, your soul has already transferred its entire angst package and God is whispering back His comfort. Our verbal prayers to God are always incomplete echoes of what our souls have already said. By the time you decide that you want to say it, you’ve already said it, and God has already answered. Yet so often we won’t even start listening for an answer until we’re done describing the problem to Him in a bunch of different ways. Other times we get so caught up in mindless chanting that we’re not talking to Him at all—we’re just making noise with our vocal cords. Communing with God is a soul thing, not a word thing. If you want to get better at it, you need to spend less time struggling over words, and more time tuning in to your soul.
Think about God. Don’t try to put together verbal thoughts about Him. Just think about Him and notice what kinds of feelings churn within you. That’s your soul talking. Your soul’s musings are like the strong currents that are running beneath the calm surface of a river. You can’t see the currents with your eyes or hear them with your ears, but when you step into the river, you can feel them pulling at you. What is so wonderfully satisfying about talking to God is that He’s always responding to your deep currents. While humans can be easily fooled by a calm surface act, God always sees what’s really going on deep inside. He responds to who you actually are and He understands all of your complex, conflicting emotions. Best of all, God loves you as you are. Even you don’t love you as you are—instead, you’re always trying not to think about certain aspects of yourself which you find disappointing or repulsive. When you talk to yourself, you’re often talking to a harsh critic. But when you talk to God, you’re talking to your Creator—the One who knows the real you and loves the whole package with shocking enthusiasm.
When it comes to talking to God, words are something you use for your own convenience. He certainly doesn’t need them. In fact, He always sees a vast difference between what your soul says to Him, and what your brain says to Him, and He finds your soul’s sentiments far more satisfying. Mary is talking to Susan on the phone. When Susan asks if Mary wants to come shopping with her, Mary looks at you, rolls her eyes in annoyance, then says to Susan in a cheery voice, “Sure, sounds great.” You are getting a more honest version of Mary’s feelings than Mary is giving Susan. It’s Susan’s limited access to Mary that makes her so easy to deceive. We humans play these games with each other all the time. The farther removed we are from each other, the more readily we deceive. But while it’s easy to lead other humans astray with your online chatting or text messages, you can never deceive God. He always sees the real you. He’s the only One in your life who knows you inside and out. Your relationship with Him is the only one in which total honesty exists at all times. Even when you’re lying to yourself, you can’t lie to God. Even when you pray lying words in your mind, He sees the true sentiment of your soul and that is what He responds to. All of this means that putting on pretenses with God is an utter waste of time. But it also means that you are never misunderstood.
God sees your love for Him struggling in the midst of your doubts and fears about what He’s putting you through and it is that love which He delights in. He rewards even the faintest spark of faith, and He counts it as a roaring flame when it is trying to exist amid a torrent of fears. When we’re struggling with shame, we often wish God wouldn’t know us so completely, because we don’t want Him to see how messed up we are. Yet God is like the father who views his son’s many failed projects and chooses to focus on his single success. When He sees that there is some part of us that wishes we could succeed with Him, God cheers that part of us on with great enthusiasm. When our faith is getting pounded, He is emphasizing how fabulous it is that our faith is still in the fight. When our desperate love for Him feels totally negated by our constant failing, He speaks as if that love is our defining characteristic.
It is because God is so good and gracious that He delights in encouraging us and in generously rewarding any effort we make trying to please Him. He emphasizes the positive wherever positives can be found, and He’s far better at finding them than we are. When we see some miserable wretch in the mirror, God sees a soul that is filled with potential. When we groan in frustration for stumbling yet again, He hears how perfect we wish we could be for Him and rewards us accordingly. It is because God deals directly with our souls that our relationships with Him are so filled with hope. It is because He communes directly with our souls that our bond with Him is so much richer than our bonds with other people. It is only with God that we are fully heard, fully known, and fully accepted. It is only with Him that saying everything we want to say is such an effortless, automatic thing. With our words we struggle and strain to string together enough sentences to convey what we are really feeling. With God, it is Niagara Falls: one second, and everything we wish, wonder, feel, and know has been downloaded into His waiting embrace.
God has given our souls an ability to commune with Him in a way that other humans can’t even receive. Though we all have souls, they exist in isolation from each other: walled off by these physical shells which we then try to convey messages through. It’s like we’re each living alone in separate lighthouses, beaming messages to each other across the sea, and so limited in what we can ever hope to say. But God is dwelling with each one of us in our little worlds, and with Him there is no limit to what we can share. With Him we are never alone, never unknown, never misunderstood. This is what makes communing with God so superior to communing with other people. While human relationships can indeed be a source of great blessing, nothing compares to communing with the One who made us. At their best, human relationships are like that faucet on full blast: they flood our hearts with joy and we think that joy is fabulous until we experience the epic deluge of satisfaction that comes from God drawing us closer to Himself. We were created with a need which only He can fill, and it is only through an all-out pursuit of Him that we will ever find completion.
Brain-Soul Mechanics: Sorting Out the Voices
Understanding the Love of God: The Five Versions of You
The Divine Perspective of Humans