Thursday, September 24, 2009

Speaking Oddities

I grew up in the Assemblies of God church (a branch of the Pentecostals), so it should come as no surprise that at some point in my childhood I felt that God had spoken to me. God was speaking to everyone, after all; the Holy Spirit came upon people regularly during our worship services; some spoke in languages they did not know, and others received the translation. The fact that God spoke to people directly was one of the first things I learned about him.

But when it happened to me, it was not like anything I had seen at church or knew to expect (perhaps that was one of the primary reasons I knew it was him). It was not at church at all, and it was not in a sanctified time of worship.

On the contrary, it was right after one of the most violent fights I would ever have with my brother, and I was feeling about as unholy as an otherwise well-mannered child could feel. That afternoon, it had not been the Holy Spirit who had seized upon my body; it was a rage that was borderline demonic, and I wanted for a few frightening minutes to do nothing other than hurt him. Now, having been caught, restrained, and sent outside to cool down while the adults discussed whether or not an exorcism would be in order, I wandered in the woods to face my own inner demons of shame and isolation.

And I knew it was God who spoke to me then, not because he was loud enough to drown out the million other noises in my head—my unexplainable rage, the severe alarm of the adults, my liturgy of despair that repeated its insistence that I was utterly alone—but because it was so much quieter, and yet I heard it anyway. Suddenly—and I remember the exact square foot of sacred wooded ground where I was standing at this moment—a stillness came over me, a stillness that seemed to say one thing:

“I love you.”

In almost two decades since that day, I have never been so sure of God’s voice, nor have I grown out of the need to hear that inaugural message. In these almost two decades, I have cried out for direction that never came, and I have been certain God was telling me things that later seemed to come more from my own idealism. But as I experienced that afternoon, God's voice rarely says what my spirit is prepared to hear.

Christ said that his sheep know his voice, and will not follow a stranger because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice. Perhaps one way we can identify his voice is by its peculiarity; that afternoon in the woods, I knew that voice of love was God’s voice because it was such an oddity. Perhaps he still speaks in oddities, in the last thing we expect or hope to hear, in the dirty baths to cure leprosy or the seven buckets of water to start a fire, in the still whisper that follows the thunder and storms.

I want God to speak to me loud enough to drown out the other voices; sometimes he only speaks in whispers. Odd whispers, at that.
Why do you contend against him,
saying, “He will answer none of man’s words”?
For God speaks in one way,
and in two, though man does not perceive it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The ONE time God spoke to me verbally was in a service, and it went straight to my heart. I KNEW he was speaking to me and waited for the interpretation. It was reassurance then too, saying He would go with me, and to not be afraid (about the move to GA).