Say there was a character who decided he was going to hear a definitive word from God or be damned trying. He saunters along in the jazzy rain, barely noticing the rain noodling in through the holes in his jeans, too lost in an imminently practical and frustrating question: how to hear from God?
He reads the Bible. Read Isaiah 16 just this morning. He reads, considers, cogitates, grunts. His mother tells him that’s it. That’s the message, clear as if God had vocal folds and yelled sound waves at you. What more do you want or need? Get about the business of obedience. Take out the trash.
He’s read Dallas Willard’s Hearing God. That was good, but he didn’t hear anything afterwards. He’s practiced the presence of God like Brother Lawrence, washing pans, scraping dried tomato sauce and cheese off fork tines, praying. He’s even had a bizarre dream or two, which some of the spiritually sensitive assure him are the Spirit’s way of warning him lest he go the way of the lukewarm. He has feelings that strike him from the blue, intuitions of possible futures. He has hunches, follows them, and when a good thing comes as a result, he thinks, maybe that was a God thing.
Does a thought from God have a different texture in the mind than a thought from the self, he wonders? A different marker that can be discerned? Seems like thoughts should have different tastes, like foods in the mouth, depending on where they come from, our character friend thinks. That way he’d know when it was the Holy Spirit speaking, and when it was indigestion.
He sits in church and muses over what must be happening in the minds of the people as the preacher wails away up there, the collective spiritual mind messaging that goes on among a gathered community of people on any given day. Dreams, intuitions of direction, prophetic hints, messages of conviction beyond question…all arriving with astonishing force and variety via the red-faced energy coming from the pulpit. Explosions of Spirit-induced thought intervening, divinedirection leaping across synapses in unexpected and sometimes diverse directions.
How in the world to hear from God, he wonders, addressing his latte morning after morning. Finally, he gives up, heads to his next appointment, hoping today might be the days of days, when he finally figures it out.
If he takes you to lunch and asks you to teach him to hear from God, what do you tell him?
You tell what you heard from God, obviously…