April 23, 2017

Those Who Dance Are Considered To Be Insane By Those Who Can’t Hear The Music

And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. (1 Samuel 3:1, ESV)

For so many of my almost 37 years following the Lord, there has been no frequent vision, at least not for me. My “words from the Lord” have come through sermons and books I read. Even Scripture as I read it did not seem to be “alive” to me. My life was directed by what I saw others doing and what others “suggested” that I should be doing. You know, good Christian suggestions like, “You are going to go to a Christian college, aren’t you?” “Don’t date her—I don’t think she is Spirit-filled.” “All real Christians do ____/never do ____.” There always seemed to be someone within a stone’s throw willing to give me his personal advice on where I was failing to live up to the moniker of “good Christian.” With friends like this, who needed to hear God’s voice himself?

But three years ago this month God began to do something completely different in me.  I remember the day, the hour, the location when in July of 2007 God began messing in my heart in a new way. He let me taste of him and I saw that it was good. It was like I was given beef tenderloin after eating “meat” hot dogs all my life. I never wanted to go back to hearing God third-hand. I only wanted to experience him through him. But it was a skill I was sadly lacking.

Hearing God’s voice seems to come so naturally to some. Still others speak a lot about hearing God, but the way they repeat what he “said” to them and the way they act it out leads one to believe the voice they heard may have come from just a little lower than Heaven. Then there are the multitudes who never experience God for themselves and seem to be ok with that.

I was one to whom God came in person, tapped me on the shoulder, and then ran off, expecting me to chase after him. I have been running after him for the past three years, dancing a crazy, wild dance with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Merton says, “It is not we who choose to awaken ourselves, but God Who chooses to awaken us.” God chose to awaken me, and I have not slept since.

In this awakening came a clarity of his voice as well. I began to hear him much more intimately than ever before. He began to reveal himself in whispers, echoes and occasional shouts in my inner ear. While that sounds as if it would be wonderful, it is more often frightening. After all, this is God we are talking about.

So how can we be sure that the voice we are hearing really is God? And what about when he calls us to do something that makes no sense, that seems to be opposed to everything we’ve learned as Christians? What happens when he directs us to go on a path that everyone else says is the wrong direction, people we have trusted and looked up to? What then? After all, doesn’t the Bible say…

Following Aslan

The four Pevensie children and Trumpkin the dwarf are trying to find their way to Aslan’s How to meet up with Prince Caspian. The land has changed so much since they had been there last, but Peter thinks he knows the way they are to go. He uses his wisdom and knowledge the best he can and comes up with a plan. But as so often happens, the Lion interrupted their plan.

“Look! Look! Look!” cried Lucy.

“Where? What?” everyone asked.

“The Lion,” said Lucy. “Aslan himself. Didn’t you see?” Her face had changed completely and her eyes shone.

“Do you really mean—?” began Peter.

“Where did you think you saw him?” asked Susan.

“Don’t talk like a grown-up,” said Lucy, stamping her foot. “I didn’t think I saw him. I saw him.”

“Where, Lu?” asked Peter.

“Right up there between those mountain ashes. No, this side of the gorge. And up, not down. Just the opposite of the way you want to go. And he wanted us to go where he was—up there.”

“How do you know that was what he wanted?” asked Edmund.

“He—I—I just know,” said Lucy, “by his face.”

Of course the children don’t go where Lucy says she saw Aslan. They go the way Peter planned out. You can guess how it turned out. After a day’s worth of very difficult travel, they ran into an enemy patrol and barely escaped without getting shot. They hid in the woods for the night, knowing they would have to retrace their steps in the morning and try a different route. Sleep came quickly after they had eaten. But sleep did not last long for Queen Lucy.

Lucy woke out of the deepest sleep you can imagine, with the feeling that the voice she liked best in the world had been calling her name.

Somehow I think the key to Lucy—and us—hearing from God is longing for that voice more than any other. Lucy went off in search of the one who called her. She found him, to her great joy, and after snuggling with the great lion for a few minutes, she heard him speak to her.

“Lucy,” he said, “we must not be here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.”

“Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so—“

From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl.

“I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?”

The Lion looked straight into her eyes.

“Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I—I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that … oh will, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?”

Aslan said nothing.

“You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?”

“To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.”

“Oh dear,” said Lucy.

“But anyone can find out what will happen.” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up, and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must get up at once and follow me—what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

And that is just what Lucy does. She goes back and wakes the others. Of course they are tired and grouchy and sore at being awoken in the middle of the night. And what’s more, they still can’t see Aslan. Why is it that Aslan is only appearing to Lucy and not to the others? We are not told in so many words, but we see it clearly: Aslan wants the others to learn to walk in faith, not by sight. Only after they begin walking in the direction Lucy says they are to go will they see Aslan for themselves. I feel so sorry for Lucy, for that is the place I find myself right now. Having heard God clearly and yet others not hearing him. George Carlin said, “Those who dance are considered to be insane by those who can’t hear the music.” Why is it that only I am hearing the music?

Why I Need To Hear God

I have three major “things” exploding in my life right now. I can tell you—and have already told you—about one of these; the other two I cannot tell you about. Suffice it to say one must be reached by crossing an uncrossable chasm, taking an impossible leap across an incredible canyon. If God does not come through, it will not be done. The other situation is one I will have to choose to walk knowing the horrible result that awaits. Don’t ask me questions, because I will not be telling you any more about these. You really don’t need to know to follow what I am saying here.

(Yes, I am almost crushed beyond measure right now. I have been struggling hour-by-hour to make it. Look, we here at the Internet Monk are not some super-saints who are above all trouble or strife. As a matter of fact, I am beginning to think that God lays it on extra thick and heavy on the seven of us iMonk scribes just so we can share what we are going through with you. See why the line to be a part of our family of writers is rather small? You are praying for us all, aren’t you?)

The one thing I can tell you about is the artists’ retreat I mentioned when I introduced you to my alter-ego, Courage the Cowardly Christian. This is something that has been on my heart for a number of years, and it seems the Lord is calling me to move forward with it now. How do I know that? I could say because I have come up with a killer business plan that I ran by some consultants and they gave their approval. That I have lined up investors just waiting to write checks to make this happen. I could say all that, but it would be a lie. Really, the best I can confess to is to say I saw Aslan briefly over there—not the direction I had planned to travel, but the opposite direction. I stumbled and stuttered and came up with excuses from here to Wednesday why it couldn’t have been Aslan. But I know it was him. How do I know? I just do. It was his face.

So while I was in Ohio last week I asked my cousin Daryl, a realtor who knows seemingly every blade of grass in Warren County, to show me a couple of properties I thought might work as a place for our artists’ monastery. (I am just going to refer to it as that for now, ok?) The first was a house built in 1900, a house I have loved since I was kid. It was for sale at a very attractive price. It is cute as a bug’s ear, but Daryl and I both agreed it was not big enough to even start this dream in. Then we looked at a nearby Christian school that has been closed for more than three years. It’s owned by the bank, and they have come down in their asking price, but it is still beyond what my meager faith can believe for. And I’m not sure it is really what we would want for the long term. I figured that maybe, perhaps, I hadn’t seen Aslan after all.

Then Daryl sent me an email with a number of other properties. Now that he knew what I was looking for and why, he could bypass all of the places I was thinking of and go straight to places that might actually work. I was leaving for Oklahoma the next day, but he arranged for me to see one other property before I got on the road. This was on 50 acres of land in a very good location. Lots of buildings, including a 4300 square foot house, in-ground pool with pool house, horse barn attached to a large indoor riding arena, another barn, a pavilion covering a number of picnic tables, and a two-bedroom apartment. This place has a lot of potential, plenty of room for growth. And the price? Well, it was in the range where my weak faith could believe for it. Drawbacks? The property is a mess. A total wreck. It will need months of work and dollar bills in the six-figure range to get it where it needs to be. But it seemed to me I could–just barely–make out the shape of the lion as Daryl and I walked the grounds.

But how can I be sure? How does one really know for sure God is speaking and leading in a certain way? And what if I am the only one who can see the lion? Am I willing to go it alone?

Those who dance are considered to be insane by those who can’t hear the music. Well, it won’t be the first time I have been called insane.

A Retreat With Monks

The week before last I was scheduled to go on a private retreat at a working monastery somewhere in the midwest. (How is that for vagueness? Find your own monastery!) I had planned this retreat months in advance, but as it drew nearer I knew what it was I was going for: I wanted to know for sure that what I was hearing in my heart—not just about the artists’ monastery, but about the other two unnamed situations in my life—was from God and not just my imagination running away with me. But God was unable to hold himself back until I reached my retreat destination. The night before I was to go, my sister in law, someone who has spoken prophetically into my life over the years, pulled me aside and said the Lord had given her a word for me that I was to hear before I left for the weekend.

“God wants you to know,” she began, “that you are a prophet and a visionary. That the words you are hearing in your heart about people and places are from him; you can trust them. But you are to learn the difference between things you are to act into existence, and things you are to pray into existence.”

I wept openly. This was exactly what I wanted and needed to hear. My sister in law had no idea what I was asking God to show me. I hadn’t shared this with her at all. Oh, she knew about one of the three pressing things in my life, and she had a specific word about that one thing for me, but as for the overall, that had to come from God. No one else had heard the cry of my heart. I asked her to repeat everything she had said. Then I had her repeat it again. “The words you are hearing about people and places are from him. You can trust them.”

I went on the retreat anyway, of course. And God overwhelmed me in incredible ways—of course. I met with the guestmaster of this house—let’s call him Father Daniel. I shared briefly the journey God has had me on these past three years. I didn’t get into the three areas of need in a specific way. I just asked him how I could know for certain I was hearing from God, and not just me. Fr. Daniel reached across, put his big hand on my shoulder, and with the kindest eyes I have ever seen, looked deep into me and said, “Son, you are walking with God. You are hearing him. Keep walking with him. You may have to go it alone, but never stop walking with God.”

More tears. A lot more. Wasn’t it Jeremiah who was known as the “weeping prophet”? I think I know a little bit why. When God speaks, it is an awesome thing.

How does he speak to us, anyway?

In the book of Acts we see a number of different ways God chooses to speak to the early church. He uses angels (1:10, 8:26, 12:9), an audible voice (9:4), visions and trances (9:10, 10:10, 22:17). He uses flesh-and-blood prophets (9:10, 11:28, 21:10) and dreams (16:9). He spoke when the apostles had been fasting and worshipping (13:2). He even uses the Holy Spirit as a form of roadblock, forbidding Paul from going to specific places (16: 6-9). I’m sure I’m missing others. The point is that God speaks to his people in a variety of ways. There are no models or methods that he always sticks to. He can use an inanimate object like a bush that burns but is not consumed. He can use a jackass that is smarter than the one riding him. When God wants to speak, how he speaks is not the issue. What is the important thing is this: Will we listen?

The Only Reason God Speaks

I have clearly heard from the Lord in one of the two unnamable situations I am facing. It could not be anything other than God speaking to me. Yet what he is calling me to is totally crazy. It goes against all common sense—unless one can somehow contrive to see from an eternal perspective. And yet…yet…I see Aslan—Jesus—in this. And that is the bottom line. There is no revelation that God gives his people that is for any reason other than to reveal Jesus. That’s the test. Does what you have heard in your heart lift up Jesus? Sure, it may seem impossible or crazy, but does it lift up Jesus? (“Mary,” said the angel, “you, a virgin, are going to have a baby without sleeping with a man. Oh, and the baby is going to be God himself.” Start with that one. If what you hear is no crazier, and it lifts up Jesus, give it a chance.) If Jesus is not revealed in what you hear, drop it. God does not come to tell you things just to make your–or my–life better. (“Hey there! God here. Why not place a bet on Raindrop to win in the sixth at Santa Anita?” I don’t think so…)

Jesus. That is the entire purpose of the Spirit of God who lives in us. Jesus.

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you (John 16: 13-14, NKJV)

The Holy Spirit will tell us of things to come, but only when doing so lifts up Jesus. So how do I know that it is the Lord speaking to me in these situations I am facing? Regarding the two I can’t name, the end of one is love and peace and joy, and the end of the other is death and resurrection and ultimate healing. And in both, if Jesus does not come through for me, if I proceed on my own, I will utterly fail.

As for the artists’ monastery, I and others have felt for sometime that God is renewing a sense of himself in the arts for this generation. It is art that allows us a glimpse into the Garden God made us to live in in the first place. And when we look through the window of art into that Garden, who do we see? Jesus.

Yet right now I struggle. I struggle mostly because I feel like Lucy—like I have seen and heard Aslan where others have not. It is so hard to get someone else to follow when they have not seen like you have. I understand that very well. There are many times I have wished Jesus had picked on someone else to do the seeing and hearing. Just tell me where I am supposed to go–I don’t have to see for myself. I’ll follow another. Maybe. But Aslan appeared to me and said, “Come.” In each of my three situations, Aslan has said, “Come.” What is my choice? I can follow him, even though none go with me. Or I can make my own plans and go my own way. I can even couch my own way in Scripture and good traditions and common sense. But when the lion has called for me to come with him, even though it makes no sense (Think of Peter and his vision of the lowered sheet in Acts 10. How much sense did that make? How well did that line up with all Peter had learned and believed up until then?) I must obey. I must follow.

That’s where I am. I make no claims to be anything more than a stumbler and bumbler when it comes to knowing how to hear God’s voice. I still must learn when I am to act something into existence and when I am to pray something into existence. But my biggest challenge comes when I know beyond any doubt what God has spoken to me. It is then that the game begins. What will happen? There is only one way of finding out.

To be continued…as God allows.

Comments

  1. Wow. In the Desert of the Real, I sit, gazing.
    I have three words: Go. For. It. It sounds like the willingness to follow brings all other factors into line, but I know that’s just my opinion. If it seems good to Him, then do.

    Best of luck!

  2. Jeff, drop me a note and I can give you the contact of an old pastor in Mansfield, OH (about 2 1/2 hours away from Lebanon in Warren County. Though he is evangelical, he helped start a place called Grace Haven back in the late 1960’s, along with Fr. Gordon Walker. They used to have arts conferences, etc., there and are still oriented towards the art. I think it would be worth your talking with him about their experiences in the arts.

  3. Courage and Good Cheer, Jeff. It is so simple yet so friggin hard to be a Lucy in a world of Peters and Susans.

  4. Jeff, thank you for this post. I understand exactly what you are talking about. I have been recently hearing from God in ways that have drastically redirected my life. I have not known any other who has “heard” from God in this way. And the way you describe it, it is true.

    When you say “He began to reveal himself in whispers, echoes and occasional shouts in my inner ear. While that sounds as if it would be wonderful, it is more often frightening”; it really scares you. Those who say they wish they could hear from God like this have no idea what they are asking. They can read your post, and my comment, and really have no idea what hearing from God is like, this post doesn’t make sense to them. Yes it scares you, and yet you desire even more to hear from God. And, as when Lucy asks Aslan questions and receives no answer, she already knows the answer, I can ask God a question, hoping to hear God and realize I already know the answer.

    God is calling you to do something that you feel is impossible or crazy. I know. God has revealed to me what his plan is, and that means taking my greatest weakness/handicap in my whole life and use it for his glory. Crazy and impossible. But he is already underway changing my greatest weakness.

    God is really frustrating me right now. I am afraid to discuss this with others. If you have never experienced this, you cannot understand. “Having heard God clearly and yet others not hearing him. “Those who dance are considered to be insane by those who can’t hear the music.” Why is it that only I am hearing the music?” Good question. You are not alone here.

  5. Some good thoughts, which are helping me on my own journey of the moment. Thank you.

    “I can ask God a question, hoping to hear God and realize I already know the answer.”

    So true. I have found that by the time I finish framing my question(s) I frequently know the answer(s).

    “Those who dance are considered to be insane by those who can’t hear the music.”

    Or, as Ray A (who has been known to post here) puts it, in the land of the blind the one-eyed man isn’t made king. Rather, he’s locked up as being insane.

  6. Denise Spencer says:

    Jeff,

    Thank you for this update. It’s good to know you’ve gotten more of a sense of direction about at least one of these situations.

    Still praying…

    ~ Denise

  7. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this. About one year ago, I went on a retreat with my youth group where I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me for the first time in my life. I too had many issues coming on top of me that I couldn’t seem to handle, but in the following few weeks, everything started to clear up. It wasn’t easy getting my life together where I had let things slide, and I did have to do things that seemed illogical or impossible. But in the two weeks after I got home, I was closer to God than I had ever been.
    Honestly, I started to doubt all of that recently. I had stopped following Aslan so closely in the months after the retreat and I eventually lost his trail. And when I tried to share about my experience with a friend recently, she obviously didn’t believe it was God. She believed it was some psychic gift I had. She had almost convinced me. Who knows how many lions there are in these woods? But it’s good to know someone else has seen Aslan too. I’m going on the same retreat again, soon, and I’m glad I can return knowing that my last experience was real. Knowing what I need to give up to meet with God again. I appreciate your honesty in the post and I’ll be praying for you.
    (oh, and just as a word of encouragement, it’s easier for people to hear the music when they see someone dancing to it) 😉

  8. black cat says:

    Wow! There have been few times that I have “heard” from God like this, and each time it is different. Sometimes it’s a scripture, sometimes an unlikely direction for prayer. Sometimes it’s a rebuke; other times, something completely different.. Each time, though, I have to be attentive and willing to listen and obey. That is the trick! And it’s not easy. Not at all. Definitely keep us posted on this Warren County possibility. I’m not that far away. And from now on, I’ll remember to pray for all of you.

  9. Jeff, I wanted to tell you that I think Michael would be so incredibly proud of you right now.

  10. Damaris says:

    Go for it, Jeff. Whatever it is, it’s exciting, it’s promising, it’s got amazing potential — but why does it have to be so lonely? I don’t know, and I’m sorry. I’m praying for you.

  11. With tears streaming down my face, all I can say after reading your post is….

    Thank you.

    You are an encouragement to me. I pray God’s blessings continue to be upon you in your journey with Him.

  12. Jeff, as I said in response to your earlier post, your vison of a commune for Christian artists really resonates with me in a big way. Heck, last year at the Cornerstone Festival, I almost dropped everything and signed up for Jesus People’s entry program. But I didn’t. I don’t know if it was fear or God holding me back. For the past several years I have felt like a man waiting outside a closed door. I have knocked until my knuckles are bloody and prayed in every way I know how. But still the door remains closed, and the days keep slipping by in maddening sameness. And during these past years, this period of waiting, it seems like God has been stripping my life down to the barest minimums — minimal finances, minimal relationships, minimal involvement with my church family, minimal motivation toward those things that used to move me to action. Maybe this has not been the work of God, but rather the enemy beating me down. Or, maybe, the door at which I’m begging entrance is such that one cannot carry any baggage, agendas, or ulterior motives through it. Maybe this door only opens for the utterly naked and broken. Maybe I’ve been waiting outside the wrong door altgether. I don’t know. All I know is that I can’t stand to stand out here in the rain much longer.
    Jeff, I pray that God opens these doors for you. I hope you’ll return the favor. And, please, keep us posted.

    • Wow. This motivates me to pray all the more. Thanks, Ron. It won’t be much longer. I am also tired of the rain. All I can say is Aslan is on the move.

  13. Jeff—we are originally from Mansfield—-very familiar with Grace Haven—–some of what they did , God used to shape our lives—–

    God is taking me on this same journey of listening, looking for Him!——-
    I think you are a little further down this road however—-
    So I say this looking to Him, waiting for His nod and agreement—–
    I only know my heart has been hearing somewhat the same cry as yours—-
    and I have been asking Him if I should help others walk down the same path He has taken me—-
    and I’m not sure how I would do that—-
    my path has been so personal, so beyond other’s understanding——

    but it would seem His answer to me is just to share what He has done in MY life and assure/encourage others that He will do the same for them—-
    Walking them on His own personal path for THEIR lives——–For HIS glory—HIS kingdom—–

    And so I say this with the TOTAL understanding behind it of “IF God wills——-”
    IF God wills——we——I ———–would LOVE to come and enter into this endeavor in Ohio!—-Even if only for a short time——a weekend of work, or whatever. To help you take what is a shambles and start bringing it into order.
    If God wills———
    and I am sure I am not alone——–you will have all the help you need——
    God will provide———–
    Just as He provided His people dry land to walk on, thru the waters, in the face of great fear, as they followed Moses in the Exodus from Egypt——-

    My prayers and heart are with you——

  14. I wish I knew God like you do….Could hear His voice. I feel like an Israelite, sitting in the camp, waiting for the truly spiritual to go up the mountain, meet with God, then come back and tell me about Him.

    But I want to go…I want to hear Him speak to me. And I have no idea how. I’ve tried everything I know to do – pray, beg, memorize verses, read books….But nothing seems to change. It’s been several years of trying and I’m really tired, so I’ve stopped trying. Reading the Bible is so incredibly boring to me. It just seems fake. Like I’m following the “can’t miss” diet but still gaining weight. I feel like I’m wasting my time since I wake up every morning, read my Bible, yet never seem to really feel a connection with God.

    I want more than religion. I want more than theology. I want to know God beyond the black and white pages of my Bible. Does anyone have suggestions? I know a passion and love for God can’t be willed into being, but does anyone have thoughts on what I could be doing to water the ground in hopes something will grow? I go to church every Sunday, small group every week, have read Willard, Nee, Tozer, etc…A few years ago I had the first 3 chapters of John memorized (along w/ several hundred more verses)….What should I be doing differently?

    I’m lost.

    • Help?: There is nothing you can do. “pray, beg, memorize verses, read books….But nothing seems to change” It is not up to you. God will speak to whom He wants when He wants. And until Jeff created this post, I knew of no one else God has spoken to. He chooses whom He wants.

      Your spiritual life sounds much like mine for many years. Over 20 years ago, I “knew”, not sure how, but I “knew” God had a plan, an adventure for my life. And I knew then, it was not the time but would be at least 20 years. Those 20 years I lived my Christian life on a plateau, and not walking very close to God, pleading with God to help with sin – to no avail, help me to learn to get into the “meat” of the Word and not just milk – again to no avail. The past two years God was ready to prepare me, removing my desire for sin, and showing me what to study and learn. Yes, God has spoken to me, and only what I need to know, for His purpose. And, yes, right now it is a thrilling ride.

      Remember Moses, the 40 years in the wilderness. He doesn’t seem to be able to learn much in the desert all those years, but God had His purpose. The same with the past 20 years for me. As I said earlier, God can be very frustrating. One piece of advice I can offer. Learn all you can about what it means to “wait on the Lord.”

      By the way, I read this poem those 20 years ago, “The Road of Life”. It has meant much and I can see where I have progressed each time I read it.

      http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~bsinger/roadlife.html

    • Help?

      I don’t have any sure fire techniques. You know that they don’t work.

      I don’t know why some of us have a greater sense of God, than others. Take my word for it, sometimes I’ve gotten spooked BIG time by Him. I also tend to feel comfortable enough to scream and shout at God.

      A few suggestions, that might help,especially if you are like me, an introvert.

      Talk to God in the shower, not any long prayers, but short ones. Just like you are talking to a friend.

      Find a pretty place where you can be alone, and just sit and rest there.

      You mention reading your Bible daily, have you tried something like the Liturgy of the Hours? They combine some Scripture, some prayers and some quietness. You might want to get your feet wet with “Daily Prayers for Busy People” by William O’Malley

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Help?, I feel your pain. I really do.
    I have been calling myself a Christian for years, but I feel very cold and alone among those who truly know Him. I believe in Jesus factually…but do I know Him through action? I don’t think so.
    I keep asking God to pour out His love into me that I could share it with others….to change my indifference into something real…to give me the kind of heart that is motivated…but so far…nothing.

    • Help?, Elizabeth and others who echo these hurts. We love you and are so glad you are here with us. We are going to attempt to address some of these very real concerns very soon, hopefully by Wednesday. If you want to share any more specific areas of hurt you have, we will try to address these as well. And know that the iMonk family–writers and readers alike–are praying for you.

      None of us have the answers. But we sometimes can get a glimpse of the One who does. We will try to help you to see him as well.

      Again, thanks for being so open and honest. We are humbled that you would share your hearts with us like this. You are loved.

      • Jeff –

        Any guidance, just a point in the right direction even, would be so appreciated.

        I will tell you one very specific area of hurt…..It’s difficult at best for me to believe that God loves me or even knows I’m really here. If it’s possible to know Him intimately, but it doesn’t depend on our desire or effort but on His grace (Rom 9:16), then why wouldn’t He want me to hear and know Him?

        And to make matters worse, anyone I tell seems to have nothing more than a trite reply like (true example), “Have you tried listening to Christian music?”. I hear that and I’m thinking, “Man….I just poured my heart out to you. I’m dying inside, desperate to know God, longing to hear His voice and know something more than religion….and you look back and tell me the answer is to start listening to Michael W Smith???” Then I wanted to punch him in the throat (mostly kidding, of course).

        Being born and raised in church, I know how to play the game. Honestly, anyone can look like their spiritual life is all together if they follow 5 simple rules (based on my religious background)….

        1. Don’t smoke or drink
        2. Come to church and Sunday school (or small group) each week
        3. Don’t watch movies that are rated ‘R’, and make sure people notice your disapproval of such “immoral” films
        4. Raise your hands when you sing. If everyone is sitting, you earn extra points for standing first when the song hits an emotional high point.
        5. Memorize a few key verses you can recite at the appropriate moment (John 14:6, Rom 3:23, 2 Tim 3:16, etc). For even more impact, learn a few from the more obscure OT books like Amos or Nahum.

        But that game is so exhausting….To feel like no one really knows you b/c no one really knows your lack of relationship w/ Christ. And it’s really easy to be bitter towards others in church. Since they are either faking it, or they actually have this amazing relationship in which case I’m extremely jealous (and don’t understand what makes them so much better than me that God would let them know Him, but not me)….

        I truly hope you, or someone, has some direction, any direction. I’m tired and feel dangerously close to just walking away from it all….

        • @Help? ummm….not known for my clever answering ability, so I’m not going to go there; and I only scored 1/2 out of 5 in your spiritual test, maybe 3/4 if you count “don’t smoke” but drink snce in awhile. Just thought I’d say welcome to the IMONK neighborhood: I’d offer you tea, coffee, and cnversation if we were in the same room. This (IMONK) is a great place to be yourself and talk it out with others. You might find out that

          1) you aren’t as crazy as you thought you were OR
          2) yes, you ARE in fact as crazy as you thought you were but you have LOTS of company

          anyway, glad you found us
          Greg R

        • Lukas db says:

          O divine Master,
          grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
          to be understood, as to understand;
          to be loved, as to love;
          for it is in giving that we receive,
          it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
          and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

          That’s from the Prayer of St. Francis. I can’t know what your life is like, what you have been doing. But I believe that God speaks to us not when we are looking for his voice, but when we are speaking with it to others. He does not help us when we desire help, but when we offer it to those around us. When we try, even if in small and faltering ways, to become like him, then we may begin to hear his voice as if from without, or as if from within.
          The knowledge of God is kind of like happiness. People don’t become happy by pursuing happiness; they become happy by pursuing something else that matters to them.

          Of course, there is no way to make God speak to us. It is rarely any comfort to say it, but I hope you understand also that God’s silence is not always a punishment. It is sometimes a demonstration of God’s faith in us – a faith that we are strong and faithful enough to serve him without encouragement or direction. It is often difficult for us to understand Gods purposes, or even what is happening to us, as it is happening.

        • Help?,

          I’ll venture down a different road here. I have never been one to ‘hear His voice’ or ‘sense His presence’ like many people talk about . These various ‘spiritual experiences’ are not what makes someone a Christian. Believing and trusting in Christ and His promises is what makes you a Christian and even your believing is a gift He gives you. It is evident from your longing for Jesus that you believe and want to know Him even more. So He has given you the gift of faith and you have been redeemed.

          All that crap that you listed as supposed proof of a relationship w/ God is baloney. They are phony hoops set up by people who are unsure themselves. These things ‘have an appearance of godliness but deny the power thereof’ as the Apostle Paul says.

          What does Jesus say ? Be baptized (if you haven’t already), and find someplace that believes the Lord’s Supper is more than just our remembrance of Jesus and commune with His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.

          It sounds to me that you are also in need of real Christian friends and the consolation of the brethren . Ask God to grant you this, then search diligently for His provision in this area. May God grant you real friends that will listen and understand.

          All this ‘God told me ‘ stuff can be misleading and harmful to the bruised reeds among us. A lot of it is spiritual pride. Find a church where talk like this is NOT the central thing.

          FWIW, your mileage may vary

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I’ll venture down a different road here. I have never been one to ‘hear His voice’ or ’sense His presence’ like many people talk about .

            And some ot those who “hear His Voice” and “sense His Presence” 24/7 make me think I’ve just stepped into a bad Star Wars prequel or Call of Cthulhu game. Remember Tatted Todd (and his pet angel Emma)? Tokin-the-Ghost Crowder (Yoing! Yoing! Yoing!)? Both claimed to take their marching orders from God’s Voice.

            These various ’spiritual experiences’ are not what makes someone a Christian.

            On my end, I’ve never had any of those Deep Spiritual Experiences like God’s Favorite Pets. (If I had, they sure weren’t obvious and/or I was too clueless to notice.)

            All that crap that you listed as supposed proof of a relationship w/ God is baloney. They are phony hoops set up by people who are unsure themselves.

            As someone who has also been on the receiving end of “all that crap that you listed”, I’d use a word a little stronger than “Baloney”. Especially when “Can you top this?” comes into play with the “proofs”. Or a Ressegue Regression, where no matter what proof you come up with, they find a way to tear it — and you — down. Remember the Book of Job, with Job’s know-it-all friends/counselors?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And to make matters worse, anyone I tell seems to have nothing more than a trite reply like (true example), “Have you tried listening to Christian music?”. I hear that and I’m thinking, “Man….I just poured my heart out to you. I’m dying inside, desperate to know God, longing to hear His voice and know something more than religion….and you look back and tell me the answer is to start listening to Michael W Smith???” Then I wanted to punch him in the throat (mostly kidding, of course).

          The magic cure-alls told to me were more like “Thirty Minutes Alone With The LOORD (i.e. Bible Study) Each And Every Morning!” or “Five Fast Praise-the-LOORDs!” (“Lord” pronounced as if with two O’s.) Other cure-alls for what you had are Speaking in Tongues (Pentecostals), Parsing Your Theology Correctly Just Like Me (Truly Reformed), and Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles (Answers in Genesis).

          Pat answers, Glib Spriitual (TM) answers, belittiling answers, veiled putdowns in a game of “More Spiritual Than Thou” One-Upmanship. Parroted and duckspoken to those who are genuinely hurting.

          Never mind punching them in the throat — “Give ’em that Christian Sack Tap!” is reserved for such as these. They’ll even get something out of it — claim Persecution (TM) and feel even better about themselves.

    • Jim Park says:

      Dear Help? and Elizabeth …

      One thing that greatly encourages me is knowing that His being and caring does not rely upon my mood, frame of mind or even my believing in Him. Nor does it depend on how much scripture I know or how often I attend church. The dry places, “desert places”, angry and lonely places, lost and doubting places …do not make Him any less real. And there is no place you can be where He won’t find you. You may feel lost, but you are not lost. He remains as near to you and as loving regardless of what you think or do or feel. That is the nature of unconditional love …it is His nature.

      Take comfort in knowing that God is far larger than anything you can imagine, truer than anything you can know and as close as your next breath.

      One of my favorite quotes is from one of my distant relatives …Daniel Boone. The story goes that he was once asked if he ever got lost on his year-long hunting excursions into Kentucky. He reportedly answered, “No. I’ve never been lost. But I was bewildered for about 3 days one time.” :>)

  16. Clioprof says:

    Jeff,
    I’m originally from Warren County, Ohio (Waynesville) and have a pretty good idea of where the Christian school that has been closed for several years is located. Indeed my parents live nearby.
    Will be praying for you my brother.
    Clioprof

    • Interesting. The land I’m now looking at is in Waynesville right off of Ferry Road. East of Wilmington Pike by about half a mile. Thanks for your prayers. This could be a lot of fun! (By the way, I am from Lebanon, but my cousin and her husband have lived in Waynesville for 40+ years…)

      • Clioprof says:

        Jeff,

        O.k. Different school than I had in mind but know what you are referring to.

        I recall one or two businesses in Lebanon that were owned or named “Dunn.” Maybe an insurance company?

        I don’t want to go on at length discussing Lebanon/Waynesville area in this forum, because it’s not pertinent to most of the readers of this blog. But if you’re ever in a mood to chat with someone from your home area, feel free to email. I’ve not lived in that area for nearly 30 years, but it’s fun to reminisce.

        More importantly, your project sounds fascinating.

  17. Help? and Elizabeth,

    I’ve been pondering your posts. I know exactly how it feels when you’re trying to get in touch with God, and it just seems like something’s broken. I’ve been in that same dark place you find yourselves, and I expect to find myself there again. I don’t know the answers, but I have grown from it.

    What I can say to encourage you is that there’s nothing wrong with you. This is the experience of faith, and it’s one we share with every disciple throughout the Bible. But just as it was with them, God will not be silent with you forever.

    Also, try to resist the temptation to evaluate your own faith journey based on what you see of others. There have been plenty of times I’ve seen people confidently proclaiming some message God gave them, and thought, “What’s wrong with me that I don’t have that kind of faith?”…Then a few months down the road, the “vision” that “God revealed to them” doesn’t materialize. There are plenty of times that the people who don’t hear the music and think the dancers are insane ARE RIGHT!

    Another thought… God doesn’t speak to people in the Bible about trivial things. No, when God calls an audible, it’s not something you want to hear. It’s usually something like, “Hey Moses, I want you to go to the most powerful man in the world and tell him I’m going to punish him if he doesn’t liberate his workforce….Trust me, you’ll be alright.” Or how about, “Hey Ananias, you know that guy who’s been hunting down Christians and having them stoned to death? Yeah. Go find him, tell him you’re a Christian, and take him to your house.” Or maybe, “Hey Jonah, go tell those Ninevites I’m going to destroy their city if they don’t get their act together…Don’t pay any attention to all that stuff about them torturing and killing people. You’ll be fine!” – God speaks to people to tell them to go do something that could get them killed. So, be careful what you ask for.

    I think the way God reveals himself to me is by helping me see myself as I am, not how I think I am. I’m working on praying honest prayers; not trying to disguise my true feelings with rationalizations. When I start praying things like, “I deserve better. God, you’re not being fair. Following you is no fun,” I start to realize how childish and selfish I really am, and that’s where Christ steps in. He reminds me that I am loved without deserving it, as I am, not as I should be. There’s a lot of pride that has to get pushed out of the way before I can pray those primal, selfish, honest prayers. But that has been the path that has led me out of that dark valley. Maybe I could say, pray until you see how silly your prayers are.

    Hopefully something in there will be encouraging and helpful.

  18. To Help?, Elizabeth, Jeff, and all those who need this.

    A BIG TIGHT HUG.

  19. This is very good, my friend. You’re a good writer. This, along with our talk, has challenged me.