Have you ever heard the voice of God?
Up until about a year ago, I never had. Thirty years as a “Christian” and I’d never heard God’s voice. Sure, I’d prayed and thanked God for blessings in my life. But up until about a year ago, my time with God had been a one-way conversation.
God please bless me.
God please forgive me.
God please help me.
But I never asked Father God, “What do YOU want to tell ME?”
With technology, television, and social media our world is loud. Every day we fill our minds with Facebook, text messages, emails, T.V., kids, work, family, friends, and the list goes on. Sometimes the world is so loud it’s hard to hear our own thoughts, let alone God’s voice.
As a child, I’d heard about the “voice of God” in church. Picturing some Charlton Heston-ish sounding voice who uses words like “smite” and “thoust”. As I got older, my mom told me the one time she’d heard God’s voice it sounded similar to her own. But up until a year ago, I had never directly heard from God.
Probably because I’d never listened for Him.
But a few months after my husband left, I was sitting on my bed having an admittedly, rare devotional time, and decided to sit quietly in prayer. I had heard in church the importance of “quiet time” so I decided to open my mind, and my heart, to God. To see if there was anything God wanted to tell me.
I will never forget what I experienced.
I know it may be hard to believe, but as I sat on my bed in prayer, I took a breath and said, “I’m here. I’m ready to listen to anything you want to tell me.” And then I waited. Minutes passed, but then the world started to fade away.
Literally, the walls of my room disappeared. I no longer felt the pillows at my back or the sheets under my legs. All I felt was openness. With the walls of my room, I felt my worries, my fears and my pain, just melt away. Then I felt Him. On my life, I swear I felt Jesus’s presence. Slowly, he walked from behind my right shoulder and sat down right in front of me.
I KNEW it was him.
My soul immediately recognized its creator.
And I lost it.
The best way I can explain what I felt is for you to imagine the best friend you’ve ever had. The person you’ve told your darkest secrets to. The person who doesn’t need a backstory, or an explanation. The person who knows you inside and out.
Now imagine walking in a barren desert. Completely void of shelter, food, and water. For months, you’ve walked alone as the hot sun beat down on you day, after day. Every step is harder than the last, your breathing is labored, and all you want to do is rest. Then you look up and see your person. That best friend. The person who has always been there for you. And they’re smiling. Holding a glass of water.
That’s how it felt when Christ sat down in front of me.
I didn’t need to explain my journey, because he knew. I didn’t need to explain my pain, because he knew. I didn’t need to explain my broken heart, because he knew. I didn’t need to pretend…because he knew.
So of course, in the face of Jesus, the savior of the world, what amazing, profound thing did I have to say?
That’s all I could say. And as I sat there sobbing, I felt his smile and heard him say as clear as if he was standing in front of me, “Don’t take your eyes off of me.”
Don’t take your eyes off of me.
Don’t take your eyes off of me.
I immediately opened my eyes and broke the connection, because I was freaked out! True connection with my creator scared the absolute crap out of me. I was terrified because I felt exposed. As if Christ had said, “I see you”. It’s one thing to be told that in church, and entirely different to be told that by the creator of the universe.
I also knew it was a warning. That I was going to be tested. That I would be tempted to walk away. Because let’s be honest…being a Christian is hard. Intentionally choosing to follow Jesus instead of the world is not easy. Saying “no” to our sinful natural is not easy. Saying “no” to our desires is not easy. It’s why we need the grace of God. Because we are perpetual sinners.
I heard a Pastor say recently that “Grace saves you from the wrath of God, but it doesn’t save you from the life you live.” And it’s SO true. God’s grace saves our soul, but it doesn’t mean we get an easy, pain-free life. In fact Jesus said, “ I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33
He didn’t say you MIGHT have trials. Or you COULD have trials. But you WILL have trials. And although there are trials that are beyond our control, we still have the freedom to choose. To say say “no” to a temporary pain to avoid a greater one.
We choose to say “no” to the one-night stand, to avoid an STD or an unplanned pregnancy. We choose to say “no” to the drugs to avoid a life of addiction. And we choose to say “no” to a life based in the world to avoid an eternity of damnation.
But that doesn’t mean we always make the right decision. And it doesn’t mean we are free from the burden of temptation.
Of course we want to say “yes” when we’ve been walking in the desert for 40 years. Of course we want to say “yes” when the weight of life has become so hard, that a moment of temporary relief sounds better than any of the potential consequences. Being discouraged or disappointed is okay. Being frustrated or sad is okay.
As long as we don’t get off the ride. As long as keep trying to follow Jesus. And avoid the path that He never intended for us to travel down.
So although I broke the connection with Christ because my sinful, human nature was terrified of being truly seen, I’m still choosing to stay on the path. To continue to strive for a connection and relationship with Jesus. To try as hard as I can to keep my eyes fixed on God. And I know I will stumble. I know I will fail at times. But I’m choosing not to give up. To not abandon the path just because it turned in a direction I didn’t anticipate. I’m choosing to trust that God’s plan is bigger than my pain or my understanding.