AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
Suppose you have a best friend named Sam who lives next door to you. You both work from home and the two of you are in a habit of sending humorous text messages to each other throughout the day. Well, one day, there aren’t any text messages from Sam. You wonder what’s wrong. You send him a text asking if he’s alright. There’s no answer. You look out your window to see if Sam is home. There he is: standing in front of an open window holding a mirror. He’s using the mirror to catch the sunlight which he’s reflecting at you in strange bursts. Well, that’s odd. You send him another text, asking what he’s doing. There’s no response. You look out your window and see him once again pick up his mirror and start flashing bursts of sunlight at you. What on earth is he doing? You’re starting to get annoyed, but then you get distracted by a phone call which leads to more distractions, and by the time you’re thinking about Sam again, it’s dark outside. You send him another text—one which makes your annoyance with his evasive behavior quite clear. There’s still no response. Aggravated, you march out of your house, cross over to Sam’s and knock loudly on the door. Much to your irritation, Sam won’t open up. Instead, he peeks out at you through the living room window. Now he’s got a flashlight in his hand which he’s flashing at you in strange, rhythmic bursts. You go over to the window and demand to know why he’s acting so weird. He finally pulls a sticky note out of his pocket and slaps it on the window. It says “Morse Code.” Then he keeps flashing his light at you.
Now you suddenly realize that all of these irritating flashes are actually a code which you’re supposed to be deciphering. Long, short, long, short, short. Sam’s simulating the dots and dashes of Morse code. Well, that’s irritating. You’ve never used Morse code before. Sure, you could research it on the internet and struggle to start deciphering Sam’s message, but what a hassle that would be. And it’s all so utterly unnecessary when Sam could just pick up his phone and text you or open his door and talk to you face to face. Well, Sam isn’t going to. Sam is on this strange trip with Morse code and he’s just not going to talk to you any other way. If you want to keep communicating with your friend, you’ve only got one choice: you’re going to have to start learning Morse.
WHY GOD GOES MORSE
If you’re seriously pursuing God in life, then you’re not just pretending that He’s talking to you when He really isn’t. You’ve figured out that God is a very different kind of Being who makes up His own mind and He doesn’t just amen your every whim. As a soul who really wants to get somewhere with your Creator, you’re really seeking God’s input about things and you’re waiting for Him to share.
Now as the Creator of all creatures and all languages, God’s communication skills are mind boggling. He’s fluent in Mandarin. He’s fluent in Swahili, French, Vietnamese, Arabic, Japanese, German, and every other dialect we humans use. He knows the difference between American English, Australian English, and British English. But talking to humans is just one drop in the ocean of God’s language skills. He’s also knows the language of dogs, crickets, bears, ants, and bees. He’s the One who composed the music of each bird’s song. He’s the One who teaches frogs and toads how to croak. So when you sit down to talk to God, is there ever a language barrier issue? Not hardly. God perfectly understands everything you say to Him and He is more than able to speak to you in your native tongue.
When God speaks to us in our human languages, it’s like your friend Sam sending you a text message: it’s clear. It’s easy. It’s familiar and comfortable. So what’s wrong with being clear, easy, familiar and comfortable? Why does God sometimes become stubbornly silent towards souls who are asking Him for direction? And why is it that the souls who God drives the most crazy with prolonged silences are the ones who care the most about seeking Him? Does God want us to get somewhere with Him or doesn’t He? Of course He does. But if that’s how He feels, why is He making things so hard by refusing to talk to us?
To understand why God does this sort of thing, we have to go back to basics and think about Who it is that we’re trying to relate to. God is not just another human being. God is a totally different kind of Being. Because God is so different than you are, you need to expect your relationship with Him to have a different dynamic than your relationship with another human. You also need to realize that God is most insistent that you do a lot of adjusting in your relationship with Him. It isn’t that He’s not willing to meet you where you’re at—if He wasn’t, you’d never have realized who He is. God is already massively simplifying Himself to you and shielding you from aspects of Himself that He knows you’re just not ready for. Not all of those aspects are negative. Plenty of them are just too much for you to handle. Take your own body, for example: are you really ready for God to download all of the fascinating details of how He put you together? No, you’re not. If God were to blast you with such information, it would be a very negative experience. Even though He’d be sharing amazing things with you, you’d find it all too complicated to grasp and the wow factor would be totally cancelled out by the “my brain hurts” factor. So God is easing you into this relationship one teensy little step at a time. It’s important for you to realize how much accommodating He’s already doing so that you can put your current frustration in perspective. It’s not like God is expecting you to magically morph into someone who can understand Him. He is educating you in a very personal way. But being educated means you’re learning new things, and not every new thing is easy to learn. Sometimes God is going to start a new subject with you that will require some extra effort on your part. We’re not talking about external works here, we’re talking about soul work: a willingness to learn, practice, focus, and change.
God is a huge fan of change. In fact, He’s obsessed with it. Look around at this world He’s sustaining and you’ll find that nothing stays the same. Everything’s in a constant state of flux. Children are growing. Seeds are sprouting. Dead things are decomposing. The whole planet is constantly turning and gliding through space. There is a lot we can learn about God by simply observing the things He has made, because everything God makes is exactly as He wants it to be. God isn’t like the human artist whose finished work is quite different than the picture he wanted to paint. God always makes things exactly like He wants them, and everything He makes is His own design. This is very helpful to us, because it means we can look around and learn a lot about who God is by the way He expresses Himself through His artistic creations. One thing that should jump out at us right away is that this God of ours is obsessed with change. He doesn’t want things to go on the same way forever, or even for five minutes. He wants change. He wants shifting, growing, and constant alterations. In your relationship with God, you’re going to find Him bringing in these same elements. He’ll be constantly pushing you to change your views, refine your beliefs, and evolve as an individual. This means that you should never assume that you’re done learning with God. No matter how comfortable you might be in your theology today—just wait. He’ll be dropping some new revelation on you soon which will drastically alter the way you view things. Change is fabulous to God. But while He designed you to be a creature who is continuously growing, He’s also quite obsessed with variation.
Let’s take another look around this world. Why doesn’t God ever make just one of something? Why can’t He just make one simple bird with one simple song? Why does there have to be so many kinds of birds? Why can’t He just make one kind of tree or one kind of flower? Why not just have one kind of dog and one kind of fish? Why does everything have to be so insanely complicated and varied? Short people, tall people, fat people, thin people, dark skin, light skin, square jaws, round jaws, big feet, small feet—is God restless? Is He bored? Can’t He ever do anything simple? Sure He can, but He just doesn’t want to. Our God is obsessed with variety. He just loves making variation upon variation. There is no such thing as enough variation to God. He can always come up with some new way to spin things.
After looking around at all the variety God has made, is it reasonable to expect Him to always communicate with you in the same way? No, it’s not. You’re in a relationship with a Being who has an endless fascination with variation. God is not a simple Guy. The same Being who filled the world with countless languages is not about to spend His entire relationship with you talking on the same channel. God’s Voice comes in many, many forms, and if you’ve asked to know Him better, then He’s going to start teaching you how to hear Him through more than one method. The clear Voice that speaks in your mind using words you understand—that’s fine, but it’s child’s play. At some point, God is going to decide it’s time to step it up a level and teach you how to crack the code on how He talks to you through your experiences in life, through the mouths of other people, through timing, through health, through dreams, through emotions, and through a bunch of other things. We’re not talking about going down some silly road of mysticism where you think every tingle in your spine is a Divine message. When God educates you, He keeps you grounded in truth, He doesn’t send you into some obsession with sensuality.
The important point we’re making here is that God’s leading in your personal life comes in many different forms. But once we humans get comfortable with one form of communication, we tend to get rather lazy and resistant to learning any others. It’s like your friend Sam suddenly insisting on talking to you in Morse. It’s easy for Sam: he’s fluent in the code from his military days. But you’re a newbie, and to play Sam’s game with him is going to require a lot of learning, practice, and patience on your part. Once you realize what Sam is doing, you get mad. You’re not in the mood to learn a whole new language—you want to go back to the easy method. Well, when God suddenly refuses to keep talking to you like He used to or in a way that you feel confident about understanding, you’re likely to get mad at Him as well. Why won’t He just keep things simple? Why is He insisting that you struggle to figure out some new form of His Voice? Because you say you want to know Him, and this is who He is: He’s obsessed with variety. He is not going to stop loving variety because you’re currently frustrated, and He’s not going to agree to leave variation out of your relationship with Him.
Yes, God does a lot of accommodating, but He has limits. When He’s decided that it’s time for you and He to venture into new communication territory, there’s only one wise response, and that is to ask Him to help you learn new forms of His Voice. Digging in your heels and going into a pout until God agrees to talk to you in a form you’re already good at hearing is a waste of time. Submission is always the most efficient way to get through a tough transition with God, and learning new forms of His Voice can be a very tough and frustrating process. The sooner you’re willing to become more receptive to the possibility that He could be communicating to you in some less-than-desirable form, the sooner you’ll learn what He wants to teach you.
In the end, it always pays to cooperate with God, for once He teaches you a new form of His Voice, there are all kinds of benefits. When we think God only talks through the Bible, then we feel like we never hear from Him until we crack open the book. Many Christians describe themselves being stuck in just such a place, only they don’t realize how stuck they are. They say something like, “I was so down the other day, and I just couldn’t wait to get home to my Bible so I could hear some word from God that I really needed.” Well, that’s a sad state of affairs. If that soul had been more fluent in other forms of God’s Voice, she could have recognized God speaking to her much earlier on in her slump. But because she was only open to hearing God speak through a book, whenever she was separated from that book, she felt unable to connect with Him.
There are always advantages to being multilingual. Take you and your friend Sam. What would happen if you applied yourself and became good at Morse? Text messaging is fine, but it creates a permanent record. With Morse, you and Sam could send each other secret words that no one else could find out about. With God, the benefits of learning new languages are even better. God is always talking to you in life, but He speaks to you using many different forms each day. The better you get at hearing Him talk to you through a variety of methods, the more often you’ll be aware of Him talking to you. It won’t be that He’s talking to you more often, but that you’re suddenly tuning in to something that’s always been going on. Learning new forms of God’s Voice is rather like taking out ear plugs and finally hearing some beautiful music that’s been playing for hours. With the barriers in your ears, you were missing out on those lovely sounds. But now that the barriers have been removed, your experience of life just got richer.
So if God is such a capable Guy, why does He insist on dragging out the learning process? Why not just download understanding into our brains so that we could instantly recognize His Voice? Well, that’s just not the way He likes to operate. To understand why God finds it so much more fun to drag everything out, it helps to think of our own human experience as parents. When your infant son smiles at you for the first time, why does that feel so special? When he finally says “mama” or “dada,” why do you consider it a newsworthy event? When your boy first starts to crawl or takes that first step, why is it such a thrill? Babies are a ton of work. Diaper changes and feedings alone should turn us parents into cynical burnouts. And yet somehow we feel it’s so worth it when our child starts learning to walk or asks us some curious question about life or manages to stay inside the lines when he colors. This thrill of watching our children evolve from ignorant, helpless lumps to skilled, coordinated, contemplative adults is something that God has wired into us which helps us understand why He finds such joy in raising us. Sure, He could speak a word and turn us all into fully mature spiritual adults right now, but where’s the fun in that?
God loves the learning process, with all of its fumbling about. He loves guiding us along in tiny steps and helping us grasp new concepts in stages. He really doesn’t mind repeating basic truths to us a billion times. He doesn’t find it annoying when we just can’t keep a mental grip on some radical new concept. When we want to learn, He delights in teaching us, and He’s not in a flaming hurry to get us through the current course. God takes His time, because He makes time, and He always has as much of it as He wants. The pace at which He’s going to teach you will be different from the pace at which He’ll teach another soul. Is this a bad thing? No, because you’re not in competition with anyone.
The apostle Paul liked to view life as a race, but such an analogy really leads us down the wrong road of constantly measuring our progress against the progress of others and worrying about who’s ahead and who’s behind. All of this is irrelevant. You’re not in a race, you’re on a solo walk with God. He’s taking you where He wants you to go, and all He wants from you is a willingness to learn and a sincere desire to please Him. If you have that, then He’ll take care of the rest.
God knows how to teach humans new things. When you feel He’s teaching you the wrong way, it’s time to ask Him to help you align with His teaching methods. God doesn’t teach us wrong, He just uses methods that we’re not expecting, thus they feel strange and negative to us at first. As far as you’re concerned, it would have been more expedient of God to just speak to you in your native language and tell you not to go to the party. But instead, He gives you a flat tire on your way there, and now you have all of that hassle to work through. Because you’re thinking that the whole sequence was just about making you miss the party, you’re irritated with God for being so inefficient. And yet your interpretation is far too narrow, because your multitasking Creator is never just teaching you one thing at a time. He’s always working on multiple agendas, and while you’re waiting for the tow truck, it’s a good time to ask God to help you learn everything He wants to teach you. You can’t help feeling irritated, but you can choose to be receptive to learning, and this is what pleases God.
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Christian Prayer Groups: Why God Isn’t a Fan
Communing with God: The Language of Your Soul
Learning to Recognize God’s Voice: Seven Principles
Prayer Frustrations: Why won’t God talk when I’m ready to listen?