Have you ever spent time with someone and got to know them? I mean a lot of time and really get to know them. How does your conversation change over the course of getting to know that person more? How does your communication grow?
These are simple questions, but they raise an interesting point about how we as humans communicate, and about how we communicate with God.
I have close friends that I spend a lot of time with. We share inside jokes, use lots of sarcasm that only we understand, and even have facial gestures that mean something only to us. If I were to use some of those same ways of communicating with some of my acquaintances, people who I don’t know very well, or people that I’ve just met, then a lot of the communication gets lost, or even worse, misinterpreted. I need to use more words until our relationship grows to the point that a lot of those words can be communicated with something deeper, like with body language, or even a “look”.
We, as humans, know this subconsciously. We alter our words, humor, body language, etc. based on who we are talking to and our level of relationship with them.
Then there is the communication I have with my wife. It’s very different than the rest. We are close – very close. We communicate with each other on a deep level. I know when my wife needs something or is feeling a certain way even if she hasn’t fully expressed it verbally with me yet. Now, I don’t know exactly and it’s not super clear at first, but I sense it. I can feel it on a deeper level. The more time I spend with my wife and the more we communicate, the more I understand this “language.”
If you are married, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. The closer you are with someone in relationship, the deeper the communication. And the closer you are with someone the more you desire to “hear” their heart – to understand what they are communicating that spoken words can’t articulate. It’s like there is a different language for the heart. It’s deeper than words, carries more meaning, and has a much stronger effect.
Then there is the way most people communicate with God. At some point in our walk with Him we all hit that point where we asked the question, “Why doesn’t God just talk to me out loud? Why can’t I hear His voice?”
We need to understand that spoken language is more necessary the less we know someone. When we are first getting to know God, we used a lot of words. We talk a lot. Too much, probably. But as you grow in your relationship with Him you may start to notice how you begin to “feel” Him more; how you start to see more pictures, more associations, more coincidences. Yes, sometimes people do hear an audible voice, but you will learn that the more time you spend with God the less you desire to hear something audible and the more you desire to just be close.
Yes, God wants us really close to Him. He wants us to pay close attention because he desires us. He desires real, intimate closeness. (If God is in the “still, small voice”, then maybe we need to be really close to Him to hear it.) He desires a communication through union: Communion. Maybe you’ve heard that word before and just equate it to a dinner that Jesus had with some friends. But the actual definition of the word is: “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” For communion to work it requires closeness. Early in my walk with God, most of my communication with Him was one sided and it mostly revolved around me asking what I was supposed to do with my life. If He had spoken to me audibly and answered my questions directly I would have said, “Thank you, God!”, then hurried on my way to get started, not realizing I left Him behind. He wanted something more. He wants me. He wants intimacy. Over time, I realized that I was looking for something deeper than a simple audible answer to the question I asked.
Okay, on a more scientific level. Speaking audibly works like this: We hear a sound, our ears pick it up, our brain interprets what we heard, sends signals to other parts of our brain that trigger emotions etc. then ultimately resonate deep within us and can affect our behavior etc. What if there was a better way to communicate that just went straight to the heart. We assume that what we hear audibly carries the most weight, when it is actually what those words become in the deepest places in our being.
When we talk to God early in our relationship we are mostly trying to express what we feel in our heart. God knows the heart more than anyone and He wants you to learn to speak that language with Him. It’s more powerful and brings real transformation, and through that avenue He can convey more in one second than thousands of words could. Over time, if you are growing in your walk with God, you will see your desire shift from telling God what’s in your heart to wanting to know what’s in His.
Our most recent podcast guest, Shawn Bolz, knows a few things about hearing the voice of God. He has “heard” God tell him people’s addresses, pets names, directions to their house, nicknames that only they know etc. Now, before you make some quick judgements about all that, think about this: Shawn has spent countless hours talking and spending time with God, getting and staying close. God knows Shawn extremely well (better than Shawn) and knows what to show him and how he sees things. Shawn has spent years “practicing” hearing and relaying what God tells him. The more time he has spent with God, the more times he has taken risks to share what He is saying, and the more times he gets it right. He’s not always right and has missed it many times, but he knows that taking risks will ultimately lead him closer to the heart of God and hearing Him more clearly.
Every time God shows Shawn one of these things it is so the person receiving will open their heart to the message that God wants to deliver, not so people will be impressed with Shawn’s amazing gift. And ultimately his message is that He loves us. More than we could ever know.
Do you want to hear from God?
Start by listening with your heart. Then ask God to show you His.
If you want more details on Shawn’s process for hearing God, or to hear God better for yourself, I highly encourage you to read his book, Translating God.