“Just because you’re not listening does not mean I didn’t say it!”
How many times have I shouted these words or something similar at my children? Enough that I’ve lost count. Whether I’m telling them what time we need to leave the house, or instructing them to put away their mismatched dirty socks (that, for the hundredth time, do not belong on the floor next to the couch), they seem to believe that if they don’t hear me say it, then I didn’t.
Unless they hear — and understand and remember — what I said, they truly don’t think I said anything at all.
Recently, my church focused for several weeks on the Holy Spirit. One of the first messages in this series asked us where we hear from God (or the Holy Spirit). Anyone familiar with my writing or with me won’t be surprised to know my first answer was that I hear from God through art, specifically pop culture such as books, TV, movies, and music. But I surprised myself when I realized I also have heard clearly from God and felt deeply connected to Him through nature. As a self-professed “indoorsy” kind of person, that wasn’t a pattern I’d noticed before.
We talked about this message in my small group later that week, asking each other where we most often hear from God and wondering if any one way is better. (Spoiler alert: I don’t think it is. I believe God speaks and ministers to each one of us in exactly the way we need when we need it.) Then one of my friends suggested we commit to praying the following week about this. She said maybe we should deliberately ask God to speak to us and then do our best to listen.
Friends, I did not like that suggestion.
My reaction surprised me. Why wouldn’t I want to hear more from God? Why wasn’t I excited to tune into the Holy Spirit and see what would happen?
The rest of the members of my small group thought it was a grand idea and all agreed. I sat quietly and then proceeded to go about my week as planned, without any such prayer. As a matter of fact, as the weeks of the Holy Spirit series progressed, I found myself pulling further and further away from the practices I normally lean on to nurture my relationship with God.
Read Scripture? No thanks.
Pray, for myself or for anyone else? Barely.
Write about God? Not a chance.
Talk about God? Not even to my kids.
Listen to worship music? Ha!
Last week as I sat listening to the final message about the Holy Spirit, I angrily wiped tears off my face. I didn’t want to cry. I wasn’t upset. And while I often am moved to tears during worship, the music had faded several minutes before and this wasn’t that.
This was an awakening.
My pastor laid out a metaphor, comparing the Holy Spirit to the wind in a boat’s sails. He referred to Scripture and shared illustrations and generally preached a fantastic finale to the series. Though some part of me listened to the sermon, what was pounding in my brain was, “Why isn’t God talking to me?”
I’d begun to admit to myself that I wasn’t hearing much from God these days. But between hearing about the Holy Spirit that morning and possibly hearing from the Holy Spirit, I was shaken with the realization that my claim that I couldn’t hear God didn’t mean He wasn’t speaking to me. It actually meant I was not listening.
And I’ll be honest. Just like my kids and their selective hearing, I haven’t really wanted to listen to God for a variety of reasons. So of course my spiritual ears closed up tight anytime He might have been whispering or even shouting in my direction. But just because I didn’t hear Him doesn’t mean He left me alone. It doesn’t mean He stopped encouraging and guiding and loving me. It doesn’t mean He wasn’t saying anything.
Maybe you’ve gone through a time like this. A rebellious or confused or just plain lost season, where you don’t really want to seek out God but desperately do not want Him to give up on you? A time when you fold your arms and stomp your foot and turn your head away, all the while hoping to feel His arms surround you anyway?
The good news for you and for me is that no matter how many times we ignore Him, no matter how long we plug our ears and avert our eyes, no matter how often we insist that we’re just fine on our own . . . God perseveres. He may be quiet. He may give us a moment. But He never leaves us. And as soon as we begin to seek His voice, we will find Him once again.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”