I think God speaks to us in natural day to day things. In support of this idea I offer the fact that Jesus used these things to speak to the people who followed him. Today his metaphors and allegories seem quaint and ethereal to our modern minds- vines and branches and gardeners, shepherds and lost sheep, coins and vineyards. These things are so distant from most of our lives that they seem almost spiritual in themselves. But these things were the very real, very humdrum things of life in that day. And yet- God used those things to convey the big thoughts, the deep things of who he was and what he expected. I think the same is true today.
God speaks in the everyday things. In fact, I believe we sometimes miss the point of a quiet devotional time. We often wait for God to speak to us and go away feeling like it didn’t happen, when in reality that quiet time is about tuning our spirit to His spirit- His station if you will - so that He can speak to us throughout the day. He is always speaking; the same way radio waves are always up there doing their thing. The question is- are we tuned in? That is what that quiet time is about. About tuning in. Taking the time to step out of the wind, as CS Lewis would say, and tune into something other than this material world that rushes at us and threatens to overtake us. The tyranny of the urgent I have heard it called. The tyranny of the temporary. But even in this temporary world- in the seeming drudgery of day to day life- God is speaking if we will listen, if we will tune in.
I have rarely heard God speak in that quiet time- I do a lot of talking and a lot of listening- but I hear little. The things I hear come to me later while in the garden- while walking my daily mile. I hear things mid conversation with a friend or when I am shopping. I hear things when I am with my children. I use the word hear, not in the literal sense, though I’ll not tell God how he may or may not speak. When I say hear- it is a knowing, a pointing out; an awareness that this is not me coming up with something- it’s bigger. I had just such an incident the other day, as summer was sliding into fall. When, as a family, we were reaching that point of exhaustion from the hustle and bustle of summertime activities and were beginning to turn our minds and hearts towards the coziness of routine and a new school year; I was sitting on the porch watching the hens.
Children are a lot like chickens you know. Probably in more ways than one, but one of which I am certain is that too much free time is not good. I love to see my chickens roaming the yard and so I am often tempted to break my rule that they should be cooped until noon and then released to forage. When they have the afternoons to roam all is well. When they have all day, they wreak havoc. My porch, my flower beds, my CAR! They get into (and poop on) everything. Same with kids, minus the poop (well sometimes!). Too much free time is not a good thing. And this is where we found ourselves on that afternoon.
As I sat on the porch, I could hear the bickering in the house. Too much free time. Someone did something to someone and no one was happy, but I resisted the urge to get involved. Soon, out came one of them as sweet as could be, not deceptively, but completely over and forgetful of whatever had just happened inside and oblivious to the fact that I had heard it. She was onto the next thing which was to pet my arm and talk about what a lovely day it was and how much she loved me. What should have triggered warm feelings struck me with a twinge of annoyance; the pleasantries felt flat, the touch was abrasive. I thought: Don’t tell me how much you love me when you can’t even show basic civility to your sisters. It was brief and not deeply felt- but in it I heard God speak. “How can you say you love God whom you cannot see and not love your brother whom you can.” And again- “If you come to the alter and remember that you have ought against your brother go and make amends.” I knew then- in a way I hadn’t before, what God must sometimes feel. I, as a mother, understood in a unique way what God, as a father, feels when his children bicker and live in strife with each other. I didn’t hate my child- or abandon my child. I still loved her. It was only that her lip service to me, felt like just so many words. “Don’t tell me- show me; show me by loving the people around you”, I wanted to say- and heard Him whisper. “When you do it to them- it is like you are doing to me.”
In that moment I wondered how many flat worship songs I had sang- oblivious to the strife I had caused or contributed to. I wondered how many glib professions of love sounded hypocritical to a Father who just wanted his other children to be treated with respect. I didn’t feel abandoned. I didn’t fear "losing my salvation" any more than my own child feared abandonment from me. But there was a knowing, an understanding, a pointing out. God had spoken and I had heard. “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.”
God got my attention. He spoke, if you will, not in the quiet but in the bustle. Not in the ethereal but in the tangible. I am beginning to think this is his preferable mode of operation- at least with me!