(To read Part 1, click here)
When I was a kid, one of my favorite comic strips showed an astronaut radioing back to Earth, “Nope, no signs of life”–while standing in an immense footprint that he’d mistaken for a crater!
Previously (God, Are You There?) I spoke about the “still small” voice (I Kings 19:12) that awakened me to God’s presence when I was in my twenties, the voice that in Hebrew (demamah) can only be known by means other than the five senses, like knowing a person has entered the room without actually hearing them. God’s presence was pervasive, was all around me. But like the astronaut in the footprint I’d been oblivious to it.
“Hearing” his voice changed everything. I not only became increasingly certain he was there, but began to realize that he was the love of my life. Now, if you love someone, you want to connect with them, need to connect with them. But that doesn’t automatically make it easy. In fact, the more a relationship matters, the more difficult communication can be, precisely because it matters so much.
My initial prayers were clumsy but sweet, like the words that spill from you when you first confess your love to someone, and learn—miracle of miracles—that they feel the same! But real love outlasts infatuation. And as it grows, differences arise: that delightful dimple turns out to be acne, that charming laugh an evasive maneuver. You hurt each other’s feelings and then react defensively, adding layers of hurt before you finally humble yourselves and rediscover how much more important your love is than your pride.
In a relationship with God, as in any intimate relationship, I believe there are two types of communication:
The first, spontaneous on-going dialogue is easy, natural, and outward-centered—“Wanna catch a movie?” Even with God, this tends to be the easier type of communication. Although, because of who He is, it has much greater significance—“Should I pull over and help that lady even though it’ll make me late for work?” Regarding this type of prayer, the Apostle Paul says simply, “Keep it up—don’t ever stop!” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
The second, planned, in-depth communication, is harder, however, because our expectations are higher. The emphasis is inward, rather than outward, and we expect results. We tend to put off “Us” meetings, even though we know we need them, and to be a little uncomfortable when they happen. “Well…here we are” (nervous chuckle). The easy route is small talk—“I think I’m due for a haircut.” Which is OK for starters, but we know what we’re really here for is to talk about things that matter!
From the start, my “Us” times, with God were spotty. When I was asked to join the comedy act Isaac Air Freight–a decision that would shape my life for years to come–I prayed, “Is this your will?” I got my answer an hour later when a complete stranger handed me a note that read, “Look! I have placed before you an open door no one can shut.” (Revelation 3:8) Later, when I asked God, “Was that really from you?” a song suddenly blared from my car radio, “I’m telling you over and over again so that you’ll know for sure!” (I’d never heard the song before and haven’t heard it since.) I pulled my car over and laughed uncontrollably. “OK, I get it!”
But that kind of clarity was the exception, not the norm.
Years later, while living in Burbank, California, I grew frustrated with the dryness in my spiritual life, and began driving up to Mount Wilson (home of the famous Observatory) once a month in order to focus uninterruptedly upon God. God honored my intention by pouring out his spirit. I spent hours laughing, singing, and rejoicing among the pines! But after five months, five startling encounters with God, that still, small voice whispered, “Now, go find this at the bottom of the mountain.” And it was over.
I’d like to say I immediately found a way to connect with God on a consistent basis. But I didn’t. Oh, I continued to read his Word, and to “pray unceasingly” (spontaneous prayer). But more often than not, I struggled with clearly hearing his voice during those planned “Us” times. Another decade passed before a very different—and much more consistent—way of meeting with God was given to me.