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When Listening is Scary

I remember in my childhood bedroom, I had one of those famous 70's pictures of Jesus sitting under a tree with children all around. As with any crowd, there were children at the back. It is an impossibility in a crowd for there not to be those at the back of the crowd. I don't know if other people do this, but when I see a painting or a piece of art, I always imagine myself in it and my response was no different with this little piece of art in the thin, golden frame.

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As a very young child, I imagined myself as one in his lap. In fact, even at the age of three, I had a dream about sitting on his lap that I vividly remember. Talking to him came easily when I knew my place with Him,  but as I grew I began to imagine myself at the back of the crowd. There are all kinds of reasons this happens, but I don't think it's that unusual as the harsh realities of life come crashing in. 

I loved the picture hanging on my wall that captured my imagination, but my shifting response to it revealed something deeper inside of me.  A happy onlooker, but much too insecure to get close, I began to see myself as one of many instead of deeply loved by God. My changing view of God affected my communication with him. If you stand at the back, you can't be rejected. You can only imagine what could be if you would get close. To step forward is risky because there is the possibility of rejection. I don't think anyone would deny that hoping is easier than being denied or ignored.

Sometimes this stance with God stands in the way of the intimacy with Him we so desire. In an adult mind, this can look like believing that closeness is for a special few. Or maybe, a belief that some have the personality or the predisposition to be close to God. Sometimes, depending on our background, we can believe that God has favorites and we're not it. There are all kinds of things we tell ourselves that keep us from approaching God in a deeper way. It's often easier to believe the lies that stand in our way than to identify and overcome them.  

A few years ago, I learned we can actually hide from God even having quiet times. I had become a bit disillusioned by some things and felt a little stand-offish with God. I still had my time with him, but he showed me I had digressed to a more eat and run style of time with him. I would hurry up and read my Bible, meditate for a second (literally a second) and then write a quick prayer without waiting for a response. This left me in complete control of my time with him. He felt so distant and by orchestrating my time with him this way, I didn't run the risk of waiting for him and the disappointment of feeling he didn't show up. I would way rather stand 'at the back of the crowd' than make my way forward and run the risk of being disappointed.

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In talking with people, I have found that one of the biggest obstacles to people putting themselves in the position to hear God is the fear of being rejected by him or him not speaking. My strong belief is that God has many things he wants to say, but a lot of his deeply loved imagine themselves at the back of the crowd too far away to hear his whispers. Some of us love God and look at him wishing for something more. We work hard and try to please him. There is a big difference between working for God and living life with God. It's a lot easier and less risky to work hard than to listen. We control how hard we work, but God controls if he speaks. Sitting in silence is scary because God's response or perceived non-response can't be controlled.

Truthfully, some of us have sat in silence and come away disappointed feeling we didn't hear anything and because of that have come to the wrong conclusion. We don't always understand God, but he always understands us. In order to hear, we have to keep showing up. Sometimes the best thing we can do, is investigate the reason or reasons we don't make space for him to speak. It is there, we often find the lie we are believing.

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If for one minute, we thought the God who spoke the universe into existence would hold us close and speak, many of us would make space to come near. We would sit in comfortable silence knowing that even in that, there is his presence. Sometimes his presence is all that is needed to change a heart. Other times his voice would be heard and the deepest longings of the heart would be fully satisfied. Many times our biggest obstacles to hearing God are lies we believe about how he sees us.

Where is it you see yourself? Are you one at the back of the crowd wishing to come close or are you one who comes near? Do you believe that no one other than you can satisfy the longing he has for you? There is a desire God has for each one that can never be satisfied by another. There is space for all of us with him.

Maybe your biggest act of faith and courage today is to sit in silence with God and offer up your fears to Him. When you walk to the front of the crowd in your mind, you will find he was looking lovingly at you all along. 

Practice: Something I have personally found very helpful in learning to hear God's voice and overcome my fear of him not speaking, is to sit first thing in the morning with an open journal. I do this even before praying or reading the Scripture. This gives God the opportunity to speak what is on HIS mind before I begin to think about what is on my mind. Sometimes I feel he speaks things to my heart and I write that down. Other times, I get pictures or even just begin to understand things I have been pondering. My journals look like a mess of conversations, pictures and thoughts. Sometimes I just sense his presence and have nothing to write at all. As I have seen him speak in a lot of ways and through a lot of seasons, my fears that he won't speak have been alleviated because I see that he does. 

*Hebrews 12:2 ....looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hadn't of the throne of God.

Jesus bought our salvation at the Cross, therefore you are the joy that made the cross worth it. 

*Hebrews 11:6. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

*Romans 10:11 Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.

*Jeremiah 33:3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hide things that you have not known.