Is it Possible to Hear from God? (Part 1)

Learning to hear from God is a lot like learning to do Cross-fit.

When you're an "outsider" looking in, the whole thing looks like the world got together and decided to play a big joke on the rest of us. Not only does Cross-fit look miserable, it looks damn near impossible.

At least, that's what I thought the first day I walked into the gym.

I literally had butterflies in my stomach on the drive over. My husband had started weeks before at the invitation of some friends and was so excited about it, he kept insisting I should come and give it a try. 

I was a nervous wreck as I walked in and saw all these happy people, chalking up their hands (what in the world?!) and pulling on their knee braces. There were barbells and dumbells and kettlebells. All the bells. Not to mention stacks of weights and medicine balls and a big black apparatus that looked like an oversized jungle gym. Sweat beaded on my brow as I flashed back to elementary school. I never really mastered the monkey bars then and I was sure as heck not convinced I could do such a thing now. 

And the people?! Oh, the people. They seemed so happy and chatty and confident and...BUFF. I seriously wanted to do an about face and run right into the arms of the elliptical trainer. She and I could glide along together at an appropriately comfortable pace where I could pop in my earbuds, shut out the world and fantasize about Chip and Joanna Gaines showing up to my house to perform one of their weekly home-improvement miracles. 

Who was I, a middle-aged mother of four, soft and fluffy in all the right places, to be in a place like this? There was no way I would be able to hang with these bronzed, glistening gladiators.

I had a decision to make.

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Would I swallow my pride and try a class or would I do a 180 and retreat to the comfort of walking the dog?

I kind of think the idea of learning to hear from God is a lot like approaching a cross-fit class.

We can look at all the "insiders" in the Christian faith -- the ones who go to church every week, wake up at 0-dark-hundred to spend time with God, the ones who seem uber spiritual and think we could NEVER measure up to all that. It's intimidating and unattainable. We think God will never talk to us anyway, so why bother?

It can be tempting to tick off the checklist of reasons why hearing from God is, at best, like playing darts blindfolded (better hope you have good aim) or, at worst, altogether impossible -- wondering if God exists at all.

Pre-supposing we're going to give the idea of God and even Jesus a chance, there are a myriad of reasons that might keep us from hearing from him. Certain blockages, if you will:

Anxiety, Fear, Busyness, Anger, Doubt, Depression, General malaise -- to name a few. I'm not saying it's bad to feel these things. I've felt every single one! It's just that often, we (I) might give them a little more power and control over our lives than they are due. 

But -- WHAT IF??

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What if the God of the universe, Jesus himself, wants to meet with you today? To bring you a word, a thought, a dream, a vision, an impression of full-life meant just for you?! What if He wants to meet you in the deepest part of your soul, right in the middle of the anxiety, fear, and doubt, in the center of your most profound need and bring you a different perspective? His perspective? One that has the possibility of bringing hope and light and life and joy.

Isn't it worth opening your heart to the possibility that you could listen to Him, hear directly from Him?

I never in one-million-to-infinity years thought I would ever be able to do a pull-up. I ultimately checked my ego at the door and started doing cross-fit. I hung on the bar like a rag doll for quite some time. Raggedy Ann's bulge wasn't budging.

But then, little by little, jump by jump, over time, I began to pull my chin up over the bar. At first, I had to start with my fingers rotated inwards. Doing "chin-ups" as they call them. The grip was easier for me that way. And then, one day I shifted my grip. I held on with my fingers gripped outward and my trainer patiently walked me through the motions of a real, honest to God pull up. I needed to engage my lats. Muscles I had neglected for a long time. (Was I even born with any?) I needed to swing back and up. 

I was not successful that day.

In fact, I felt defeated. All this time of training and still nothing.

I hung on the bar just swinging back and forth, envisioning the motions for days on end. And then, one day, the proper muscles engaged and up I went! No assistance. Just middle-aged me doing a pull-up. What the?!

This success did not happen overnight. I had to show up, work hard, and believe that change could someday be possible. I had to trust the process. I had to hope and believe that, in the end, or somewhere in the middle of the journey, things could be different. 

Perhaps listening for God's word in your life is the same way. 

Is hearing from God something you're open to? Would you be willing to take a step towards Him with an open heart and mind and ask Him to speak to you?

Maybe you're feeling defeated in this area and the faith of your youth has all but dried up and withered away if it was ever there at all. Perhaps the lyrics of the well-known ballad "Hallelujah" ring ever true in the place you find yourself today:

"There was a time when you let me know, what's really going on below

But now you never show that to me do you?

But remember when I moved in you, and the holy dove was moving too and every breath we drew was Hallelujah..."

I hanker to guess, if you allow yourself to show up, as broken and battered as you may feel, He'll show up too. The only catch is -- you just can't have any preconceived notions of exactly WHAT that will look like when He does. He is so creative in how He speaks to people!**

Maybe your prayer today is that of King David's in Psalm 51:10-11:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy spirit from me."

I think Rufus Wainwright and King David had more in common than anyone may realize. They are two men, cold and broken, coming into the presence of a Holy God. Hoping to encounter Him once again. Hoping to feel the fresh breeze of His Spirit. 

Do you wonder if He's really out there?

And if He is, would He truly "take the time" to encounter and speak to little, old you? My money's on "yes!" But don't take my word for it...

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Close your eyes, quiet your mind and open your ears. Listen for the whiper. He has something to give you.

What is it?

(**Since this subject is of such complicated intrigue to me, I'm thinking of turning it into a 2-3 part blog series. Next, I'd like to explore the ways God talks to us and how we can discern if it's His voice or not.)

Photo cred in this post: @reesenilsenphotography

Holly's Take:

Good job on the pull-up! I'm inspired. I might even try a push-up tonight, now.

I don't know what to say on this subject???  It seems to me that you are saying that if we give it enough time and enough effort, our listening muscle will start to function, and then we will be able to hear the voice of God. Did I get that right? 

Hearing from God. Some people seem to hear from God about every detail of their life. I used to find that so annoying, probably because I felt like I never heard from God. But now I would never think of questioning others' beliefs and accounts of hearing from God. Who am I to decide whether it's real or not? Then some people NEVER seem to hear from God and that feels unfair?  So, I'm left with my own experiences.

Hearing from God has certainly helped me put stakes in the ground. I felt like God was VERY clear when Dave and I decided to move forward with adoption as I felt like I really heard from God while painting my friends bathroom. In the initial difficult days (years) of sweet Macie coming home, it was grounding to remember that bathroom moment. The day before Dave died, the girls saw Jesus in our kitchen and that for me, gave me the message, "I knew this was going to happen." He knew, he saw, he knows everything.  (The sovereignty of God is not always a comfort, because even though I knew God knew, I also knew he could have prevented it, and chose not to, but that is a post for another day.)  The deal is, I knew that God was with me and that he saw and was seeing and is seeing.  There are some mornings where God gives me little gifts that COULD NOT BE COINCIDENTAL, where I feel like God gives me a verse or a song that is so for that moment and it's not linked to anything difficult or monumental, in life. It's these moments where God is so incredibly personal and dare I say, even funny, that are my very very favorite God speaking to me moments. Why I don't seek more of those moments by spending more time with Him, is always a mystery to myself??????  I guess that may be what you are talking about, Megan. It's like, the more we hear Him, the more we get these super personal gifts from Him and RECOGNIZE those moments as the God over all the universe talking to little old me. 

 

Christina's Take:

What a compelling topic with unending facets...

I hear two messages in your post:

1) Hearing from God is something you and I can work on and for which we can develop an "ability."

2) Hearing from God is something we can show up for and be open to...or not (like deciding whether or not to answer the phone, for example).

And I know none of it is that simple, really.

But I think more than anything you're challenging me to put some intentional thought into hearing God's voice. I have had moments when I believe I could hear/sense clear direction. The reason I attribute it to the Lord is that the idea was something I couldn't have come up with on my own and it was consistent with scripture and what I know about the character of God. Mostly though I see God's faithfulness and direction as I look at the story He is weaving together in my full collection of days on this earth. I see His protection, His faithfulness, His challenge. And I hear it when I process life with trusted members of my community. These are tiny pieces in a really large puzzle I know I'll spend my life putting together. Love this topic and can't wait for more, Megan!!