Persistent Silence

Often I will preach about listening to God. When we pray, it is a conversation – there should be times when we’re talking and there should be times when we’re not talking. It’s in those not talking times when we can listen to the voice of the Father, discern the presence of the Son, and hear the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But what does that look like? When I put myself outside of my own experience and read that three-part sentence I just wrote, it sounds kinda weird. By weird, I mean subjective, experiential, flighty, ungrounded, semi-biblical – just downright iffy – everything I strive not to be. What I want to do today is walk you through my drive up to church today, so that you can get an illustration for what I mean. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then hopefully the word picture I paint today could pull a good 500 words at auction.

            The drive started fairly miserably. We got 4-5” of snow in Parker, which was just enough to slow down traffic to a crawl. Due to the snow, I decided to skip my usual backroad route and take the freeways. However, because Colorado is now filled with California and Texas invaders, the usual six minutes to the freeway took me thirty-five. My typical morning car routine has me keeping the car quiet for the first ten minutes or so of my drive. I’ll take that time to talk with God a bit, then wait to see if anything comes into my mind afterward. Today, I talked, then I shut up…and nothing. Cool, no problem. I put on my audiobook for the drive up.

            I was really enjoying the book by the time I got to I-70. I’m listening to Churchill: Walking with Destiny – an ultra-long biography of Winston Churchill written by Andrew Roberts. I had just gotten past when FDR and Churchill met for the first time during World War II off the coast of Newfoundland. Really interesting stuff and I was thoroughly engrossed, when I got that feeling that I needed to turn the book off. This happens to me every 2-3 days. There was no great voice or billboard on the side of the road. Just a feeling that I knew didn’t come from myself, because all I wanted to do was keep listening to the book. Because of past history, I know that this is usually when God wants to process through some stuff with me.

            So I shut off the book and started thinking about Sunday’s sermon. This is often why He has me shut everything down. I’ve got a lot of information so far for my sermon, but I’m still looking for the main idea around which I can build the message. Lord, do you have stuff for me for Sunday’s sermon? Silence…and nothing. Okay, how about what I’m going to say at Ray Longwell’s memorial service on Saturday? You know how I loved Ray, Lord, and I really want that message to honor him, but most of all to honor you. I jotted down a bunch of notes yesterday, is this what you want to work through? Silence…and nothing.

            Okay, maybe it’s just an intercession time. So, I prayed for Madeline. I prayed for Nancy. I prayed for family. I prayed for the church. Then my mind went blank and I ran out of things to pray for. Does this mean I can put the book back on, Lord? Nah, that didn’t feel right. Crud, because I really wanted to get back into the story. What are you wanting to get at here, Lord? Silence…nothing.

            How about some music? Can I kick in some tunes? That actually felt alright. So, I told Siri to shuffle my workout music playlist – I was looking for something with a beat. First song to come on was “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix. I thought, “You know, if God is wanting to lead me in a certain direction on this drive, I’m not sure that ‘Foxy Lady’ is the proper destination.” So I triggered the next song – “Like a Match” by TobyMac. Not a bad song – has a good beat and I can dance to it. But as I listened to the lyrics – which really don’t have a ton of depth – I started hearing some things that were sticking with me. I’ve had two conversations in the last two days about my desire to see our church expanding our reach to the neighborhoods around us. Here is TobyMac throwing out phrases like “If it’s real, we gotta show it; Cause if it’s not, they sure gonna know it” and “Burnin’ for the world to see; You and me, we gotta love; Strike it up, like a match”. That’s when it hit me – Lord you’ve been leading me to my blog topic today. How awesome are you, God!!

            So, after that one song I shut the music back off and started praying through those lyrics. Okay, Lord, show me what You want me to say. This has to be you because basing a blog post off a TobyMac song is kinda cool and different from what I’ve done in the past. I’m passing through Bennett right now – only about seven minutes away from church. Pour it out Lord so I can hit the ground running when I get there. Silence…then nothing.

            You know, God, listening to you is usually a lot easier than this. I know that a lot of folks are confused as to how to do it, but You and I kinda have a process worked out. I usually don’t even have to think about it, because it comes naturally. What gives? Silence…then the thought popped in my head, “Maybe you’ve had a harder time listening, because I wanted to you think about listening.” Then, the pieces fell into place. By the time I rolled into the parking lot, this blog post about listening was formulated, which was the whole purpose for the process God took me through.

            Now that I’ve written all this, I’ve been sitting here at my desk for the past ten minutes trying to come up with some great explanatory conclusion that will make everything perfectly clear. I’ve prayed it through…and nothing. So, I’m just going to let the illustration stand. Talk to God, listen in silence, see what He says.