How old were you when someone told you about God? Was it a parent or grandparent? A priest, pastor, or Sunday school teacher? If you were very young, I bet the adult kept things basic. We have this idea that kids can’t take in complex ideas. I was shown a big picture book with a long-haired Jesus in robe and sandals helping some children. I was also taught the song “Jesus loves me, this I know.” I was told that God lived in heaven and watched me all the time. The only God I had been shown was Jesus, so I pictured him as God. Sound familiar?

Did you get incremental updates on your theological knowledge as your intellect grew? I didn’t because I was raised by my non-church-going parents. They figured they’d done their duty with the Jesus book. I think most people still carry around the simplistic view of God they were taught as children. It never gets updated if they don’t read the Bible or go to seminary. The idea that God lives inside me was never taught. I only heard about it as an adult when I started pursuing God. It makes a heck of a lot more sense to me than some dude sitting in the clouds. I have been on planes above the clouds. He wasn’t sitting there.

Looking back, I remember plenty of times when God made his presence inside me known. I just didn’t know it was him or his spirit. He warned me many times when I was about to make big, life-threatening mistakes. Usually I ignored him. Nevertheless, I heard the warning. Parents called it my conscience. Can you recall any such moments in your childhood or youth?

Even though I believe God is real now, I still get irritated at Christians who go around blabbing about “what God told me” and “what God said.” The rest of us are looking at each other quizzically. Why don’t we hear God telling us anything? From the way they talk, you’d think God calls them up on the cell phone or sends them a text—they are so sure of his meaning. It’s very off-putting and it builds barriers between people. They are the insiders that God talks to in a chummy way, and we are the outsiders that God ignores. No wonder we don’t want to set foot inside their churches.

The fact is that God very rarely speaks to anyone in an audible voice received by the human ear. If it is a voice at all, it is an internal voice—more an idea—that pops up inside your head. Sometimes, like my pangs of conscience, it is a feeling within. Once in a while it is a vision, either waking or sleeping. These messages are open to interpretation, not clear-cut.

Supposedly, God sends more messages to people who are ready to hear them. Now, at the height of my rabid atheism I was certainly not ready to hear anything from a non-existent God, but that didn’t stop him from stabbing my conscience! After I became a believer, and especially after I started practicing centering prayer, I did get more messages lighting up in my mind. Perhaps I was more ready to hear them. At least I wasn’t trying to keep them out, as I had been before. The fact that you opened this blog and have read this far may mean that you are ready to hear more from God than before. I hope that is true.

Note: This blog is from A Doubter’s Devotional 2, chapter 1, available here on Amazon:Order here

2 thoughts on “God and God’s Voice

  1. God was very different for me than for you as a child, and I think His evolution in me has been different, too. I grew up in a very Roman Catholic family–we never missed church. For the first eight years of my life we could walk to church, and did so. I also went to the parish school, grades 1-8. I was sure God existed in the Trinity and I had all the catechism answers down pat. I stopped going to confession some time after college but the God of my understanding was still that scriptural, three-in-one divinity I grew up with. What changed my views was the spirituality of twelve step programs.

    You might call it getting in touch with the God within. I became aware that i was assuming a large and powerful entity controlling the universe when what I was experiencing were the whispers and little miracles of the daily interactions with a spiritual power much greater than me, much greater than anything. When I stopped looking for the Big Things, I began to notice how it was the endless series of small things that really counted. The ,many little decisions, hearing God speak through the least expected sources, the quiet envelope of meditation, feeling the connectedness with strangers on a common journey–this is where I see and find God now. Religion is still important to me, but it is a trapping of my spirituality, not its center.

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