Is God Really Right Here?
I had my littlest with me on this quick grocery run. It was one of those steamy summer days where you don’t want to accidentally step off your flip-flop in the parking lot. We crammed the bags into the car quickly, because of the melting vanilla ice cream. As I returned my cart, I passed two men working on a broken down work truck. The hood was open, with one man under the truck, and the other man talking to him through the top of the engine. Their sentences were staccato, their movements frantic, and their bodies drenched with sweat.
As I finished loading my groceries, feeling frenzied myself because of the ice cream, I heard a whisper: Get them some water.
I paused. I admit, I thought about the ice cream situation. But, even as He whispered, God knew about the ice cream. He was clearly more concerned about the men.
So I drove to the grocery store gas station right there in the parking lot and bought them each a large, cold bottle of my favorite brand of water. As I drove, I explained what we were doing to my youngest.
With the water purchased, I pulled up next to the men, and as I’m still thinking about how to give it to them — Do we tell them God asked us to give them water? Is that too weird? Or do we just hand it to them? But God doesn’t get credit then? — my son hops out, holds the bottles out to them, and says simply and profoundly, “This is from God.”
Leave it to me to overthink it while my son delivers the Living Water with his uncomplicated faith.
They said thank you. Then we drove home with soupy ice cream.
The absence of a more dramatic ending pushed me to ask God for the lesson here, and though I'm sure there are more, let me share three.
1 | Hearing in the Quiet Leads to Hearing in the Loud
Because I was consumed with protecting the melting ice cream, I knew it wasn’t my idea to get water for those men. He saw those thirsty men. I didn’t. He knew they needed water. It didn’t occur to me.
But He invited me to glimpse what He saw — who He saw — and to be part of a need He wanted to meet. They were thirsty. He wanted to quench their thirst, and, however flawed it was (as my son completed the task!), my heart to hear Him allowed Him to quench it.
Of course, I always look forward to spending time with Him in my favorite chair as I hold my favorite mug of my favorite roast. It’s a comforting, edifying practice. But that practice of sitting with Him in the hidden moments seeps out beyond that time with Him. Connecting with Him in the quiet helps us to recognize His voice in the loud.
Henri Nouwen writes of this, saying,“The more we train ourselves to spend time with God and God alone, the more we will discover that God is with us at all times and in all places. Then we will be able to recognize God even in the midst of a busy and active life,” (from The Only Necessary Thing).
2 | Connection Needs a Soft Heart
That day in the parking lot, after I heard His nudge, I had a choice to make. There’s an intimate relationship between hearing Him and following through on what we hear. The same Hebrew word, “sama,” which means “to hear intelligently,” is used interchangeably throughout scripture for three different English words: listen, hear and obey. The choice to listen and then to obey what I hear are just as intertwined as the connection of these words.
This connection, between listening and obeying, is highlighted in Psalm 95. If we are the sheep of His hand, and we hear Him, our ongoing connection with Him requires soft hearts.
“For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness…”
(Psalm 95: 7-8).
The reference to Meribah and Massah is from Exodus 17:1-7, when the Israelites were wandering the wilderness. They were thirsty. And mad. And they copped an attitude with Moses.
Thirst can be a powerful driver, can’t it?
God saw both needs. Both the Israelites and the men in the parking lot needed water, and in that thirst, He was there, waiting.
The difference between these stories is readiness of heart. In their thirst, the Israelites' hardened hearts weren't open to connecting with God. Rather than move toward God with their thirst, they moved away from Him and questioned whether God was even with them.
But in the parking lot, as I sped-walked by cradling the ice cream, a softness of heart led to quenching. No, I hadn't really noticed them, and no, it wasn't my idea, and yes, I was completely self-absorbed. But I'm so thankful I heard Him.
Hard hearts question God, but soft hearts are quenched by God.
3 | Connection with God Comes from Staying and Obeying
It took me a long time to understand that the more I connect with Him, the more I will be aware of how close He is, every minute of every day. Oh, those moments of dire thirst will come. Man, do I have my own moments of Meribah and Massah! The question is, when I face pain and strife and adversity, will I still listen? When I'm tempted and frustrated and entitled, will I turn toward Him? The intimacy with God that I long for requires that my heart stays close to Him, even then.
If listening is the practice of choosing connection with God, then what keeps us connected is our ongoing choice to stay and obey.
This isn't a legalistic, blind obedience that checks the boxes for the win. This is the kind of obedience grows from love. It's the kind of obedience that comes from delighting in Him (Psalm 37:4). It's the kind of obedience that trusts He is for us, and is leading us in ways that don't fit with our understanding (Proverbs 3:5-7). It's the kind of obedience that still chooses God even in the moments we want to choose ourselves.
This is how we love God. And this is how He meets our thirst.
He is Emmanuel, God with us, every minute of every day. We only need invite Him into more of those moments to find that He is able to both satisfy and then deepen our thirst for Him.
This is the final post describing five different postures to hear God louder. This fifth posture of belief, that we believe when we listen for God, we will connect with Him, is a building block for knowing Him deeper and hearing Him louder. To know more about drawing closer to Him, see all five posts in the series, linked below.
The five postures:
1 | Seek: I believe that when I seek Him, I will find Him.
2 | Know: I know that God still speaks to us.
3 | Expect: I expect that I will hear Him.
4 | Listen: I commit to creating time and space to listen for His voice.
5 | Connect: I believe that when I listen for Him, I will connect with Him.
Read the other posts in this series:
Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
These five postures are also summarized in a practical prayer guide called, “Closer: Five Postures to Hear Him Louder.” To receive this free prayer resource, subscribe here.
Posture Five | Connect: I believe that when I listen for Him, I will connect with Him.
“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness…” (Psalm 95: 6-8)
“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)
“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)
Look up the promises above. Read what comes before and after each verse.
Make space in your day and in your heart to listen for God. Draw near to Him, ask Him questions, and then get quiet.
Invite God into more moments of your days, as you are coming and going. He is Emmanuel, God with us, all the time.
I find that when my hands or body are busy, my mind is clearer to hear Him more. Talk with Him in the car, when you’re blowdrying your hair, when you’re doing dishes — whenever! — and then pause to listen.
Ask God to lead you as you go through your day. Ask Him to speak like Isaiah says: “And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)
As a practice, do you pause to listen when you talk with God?
What steps can you take to have two-way conversations with God even during the loudest parts of your days?
Take some time to think on this quote: “The more we train ourselves to spend time with God and God alone, the more we will discover that God is with us at all times and in all places. Then we will be able to recognize God even in the midst of a busy and active life.” [The Only Necessary Thing, Henri Nouwen.]
Do you believe this can happen? Do you long for that?
What steps can you take towards this if this is a longing of your heart?
To read more about meeting with God:
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