We’re continuing in our study of Blackaby’s, ‘Experiencing God”, in our Sunday school class. I wasn’t scheduled to teach, but had begun the lesson since our teacher was 15min late. Happy to see him, because I had read the lesson as a student and not fully prepared to teach, I quickly slid out of the teachers seat, passing the reigns as I did.
At one point there was discussion about how as we move more deeply in our relationship with God, we become more accustomed to hearing his voice. The comment was made that the further away we are, the harder it is to hear His voice.
Right then I was physically present in that classroom, but taking a trip through a memory. I think I bought the ticket for the trip courtesy of another blogger. Sometime during this past week, someone asked what initially seemed like and inocuous question: what do you miss about summer? I can’t tell you why, but that simple question has stuck with me. I would find myself thinking about it almost daily. And it came to mind this morning during class.
When I was a child the rule was that you couldn’t be farther away than your parent’s voice. When your parent yelled your name, you better be within “shoutin’ distance” so you could be home before they closed the screen door. When I was in early grade school, that wasn’t hard because we weren’t allowed out of our fenced in back yard. The older we got, the further we would venture out–but never beyond their voice. I always thought a couple of my friends were super lucky. One mom had this special whistle that she did and it sure seemed like the wind carried that whistle forever. Another friend’s parents put a bell with a rope on their back porch and would ring it like a dinnerbell when it was time to come in. That bell was so loud, I thought it could be heard in the next county. But for me, there was no bell; there was no whistle. I had to listen hard, because punishment was swift and hard if I failed to hit the step before the door hit the frame.
In some ways, I think I liked it better when I grew a little older and the signal for coming in was when the streetlights came on. The problem with this new system was that I had to be responsible with looking up now and then to be sure the lights weren’t on yet. There was no external prompt, just me paying attention. It seemed with greater responsibility came greater consequences.
So of course, I began seeing the spiritaul parrallels as I sat in class this morning. It is very true the farther away we get, the harder it is to hear or distinguish God’s voice. I had trouble hearing my mother shout my name. God rarely shouts, so to hear Him we need to be tuned in relationally. The old hymn puts it well, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” The things on the periphery can seem so enticing, but they move us further and further away from Home.
As for streetlights, well, that reminds me a lot of my responsibility in this love relationship with God. I find it quite easy to become so obsorbed in what I am doing that I often miss the signals and signs. I don’t want to do that with God. It takes greater discipline and intentionality than what comes naturally for me. In my spiritual garden where the fruit is grown, I have to give special attention to the friut of self-control. I don’t want to be rigid, but I have to be more aware and disciplined. I can’t just pencil in the time for God. I have to live into the difficult “make every effort.”
The question then that still remains to be answered is what do I miss. I think I miss the simplicity of listening for God’s voice and not having to be so responsible and disciplined. I wonder if Adam and Eve missed that after they left the Garden. Oh, I know God continues to call us to deeper levels of awareness and maturity, but I’m not sure any of it is ever meant to replace the tenderness of hearing him whisper our name.