This is a third installment in a series on developing a conversational relationship with our God the Holy Spirit. The previous posts were published February 6 and April 16.
Picture: Elfin Lakes, Garibaldi Provincial Park, a place where I use to guide adventures.
Sometimes when speaking to others about the regular hearing of the voice of God, I am asked, “What does that sound like? What does He say?” Let me give you an example from my own life, one in which hearing His will was clouded by my own lack of listening experience and factors in the situation that seemed at first to be leading in a different direction.
Every time I have rebooted my career (my life, really), I have spent time seeking direct input from the Lord on the matter. As these reboot experiences have unfolded, they have been met with a growing sense of clarity about what the Lord was speaking. Few of these reboot experiences made any sense at all from the human perspective. They would have seemed to most as most unwise decisions. Yet the wisdom of our God’s leading was vindicated as each new situation unfolded.
As my work as a guide on the Canadian west coast was running out, I turned to my God for direction. This was in 1980, and though I was still pretty green in the process of hearing God speak, I sought Him to give the answer. I had a “plum” job offer with a well-known church in Alberta, known for taking people new to ministry and mentoring them into effective pastors and leaders. A full-time mentoring-based position in a prime location, salary and housing provided, provincial health coverage, and a track record of successful outcomes. It seemed like the proverbial “no-brainer.”
I knew my preference, but also knew I needed to hear His view on the matter. As I sought His direction daily, I received much encouragement from others to “take the job.” My Canadian friends were aware of this church and its reputation. Some of them expressed dismay that I had not immediately agreed to the offer.
While I was waiting on an answer from the Lord (which seemed to be delayed in arriving), I received a letter from a church in northern Idaho that contained another job offer. I had volunteered in this church over the previous winter while I “wintered over” working in a mountaineering shop and waiting for the season to open in Canada. The offer was for at best part-time pay, had no housing support, and no health insurance. The church had a history of associate staff leaving angry with the senior pastor. The job was to be the youth director over a dispirited youth group that had dwindled to nearly nothing.
As I prayed over both of these offers, the Lord was clear in pointing out that His best for my future lay in Idaho, not Alberta. I accepted this direction from Him with a bit of trepidation given the circumstances of the offer. My friends in Canada assumed I was foolish. Quickly, I turned down the Alberta church and accepted the Idaho position. The die was cast. I crossed my Rubicon and did not look back. Well, not often, anyway.
How did it turn out? I stayed there ten years. I received great shepherding from an ad hoc circle of friends and mentors who accepted me in my roughed-out condition. It was a Quaker congregation, so I learned a great deal about walking with my God and having conversational communion with Him daily. The congregation was beyond gracious to me as I stumbled along the path of ministry. I survived working for the difficult senior pastor (not so some of my peers) though not without a few scars.
Most importantly, this was a ten-year experience in facing my fears, becoming aware of my weaknesses, being beat up a bit in areas that needed some beatings, and dealing with some generally unproductive traits and practices in my own life. It turned out that I did not need a great placement with a great track record. I needed something that would be a combination of spiritual retreat and a woodshed experience. It was perfect. I have thanked my God often for all that happened there, and for a gracious congregation that put up with me with love and patience.
I would have missed this had I not listened for the voice of my God and waited for Him to direct. In my flesh I would have felt it was the will of God to go to Alberta. Looking back, I wonder if I would have grown as much or even succeeded at all there.
We all need to need to seek to become listening disciples. We all need to begin asking our God to make His voice known, and giving Him significant time in silent listening. We must learn to spend time with the Bible open, asking the Holy Spirit to from the Book. Then we must wait for it. It takes time to recognize “sound” and the rhythm of revelation.
Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.“ If we seek to hear our God, we will find that He has been speaking to His true disciples all along. Over time, I have come to experience His voice daily, in matters ranging from what seems to be minutiae to big decisions related career and even life-saving opportunities. I will write more about specific experiences in future posts.