It was a Saturday night. I was at the end of a 10-day stretch of working, with lots of late nights, early mornings, and naps just to survive. That particular work day has been stressful and annoying. I got in my car, turned on some music, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I began to vent-pray. You know – when you tell God everything that’s wrong with your life and all about the rough week you’ve had. I prayed and prayed and repented for my bad attitudes and asked for grace and peace. When I was done, I turned my music back on. But just like a parent who needs to get a word in over their teenager who just put in their earbuds, God yelled over my music: “HEY, WAIT A SECOND!” I paused the music again, and that’s when God said something that is simple yet profound (seems to be His way of doing things…)
Who said you’re done praying just because you’re done talking?
Guilty as charged.
Even though I’ve long since subscribed to a definition of prayer that is simply “talking with God,” I’ve forgotten the simple art of conversation: it’s a two-way street. That is, if prayer really is conversation with God, then prayer isn’t over when I’ve said all I need to say. I need, still, to leave time for God to speak.
But I like noise. I like to keep things lively. I like to have music in the car or a podcast in my ears. I like to have movies or television on in the house. I like to always be doing something. I like to be on the go. And primarily, I like to talk.
And it’s all noise. It’s all distraction. They’re all ways I am self-serving and leave no room for God to talk to me in return. The sad thing is (and you’ll have to follow me through some thought,) they’re ways in which I refuse to let God love me. I’ll explain:
I’m a ashamed to admit that I used to dread getting phone calls or texts from my dad. I figured they’d always be about money that I owed for insurance, or how I needed to get my car fixed, or how I needed to save more money. Basically I thought that every time my dad would talk to me, it’d be to bother me and point out ways in which I wasn’t doing things right.
That all changed the other day when he took me out to dinner, and contrary to what I was expecting, we had a really great time, and I actually ended up in tears because of how encouraging and affirming my dad was to me. He encouraged me that while life can be hard and managing money never gets easier (“more money, more problems” is a true statement) it’s never too late to start. And it’s never too late to start learning the things I was too bone-headed to learn as a teenager, like fixing my car and working on things around the house. Somehow, despite all my fear, my dad managed to encourage me and show me that I could do it.
What was different?
For once in my life, I didn’t shut my dad out. That’s all.
And that’s my earthly father – how much more will my Heavenly Father speak life and affirmation over me if I let Him talk? I’m not saying that God won’t ever correct us or speak things that are hard.
God is a Father. He consistently uses Fatherly language to refer to us and to refer to Himself (we are His children and He is our Father.)
If there’s anything I’m learning, it’s that relationships between children and their father is a two-way street (just like aforementioned communication…)
If a child only ever expects their father to love them, that’s all they’ll choose to hear. They’ll never choose to hear the hard things, and they’ll perceive it as non-loving.
If a child only ever expects their father to be involved in the necessary evils (such as fixing cars and paying bills, like I was afraid of with my dad,) then that’s all they’ll choose to hear. It becomes uncomfortable to think that they’ll speak anything loving, because it just seems like it’s not the role of the parent (ironic as that sounds.)
We often talk about how fathers need to relate to their children, and it’s true. But just like a child can position him or herself to receive love from a father who doesn’t, a child can position him or herself not to receive love and it can make their father seem like he’s uninterested.
God is interested in loving us through the hard stuff (the stuff that forces us to change our character, the correction of our thinking, and even the practical stuff like paying our bills, managing our money, etc.) as well as just pouring love and affirmation on as a Father. It’s not either/or. it’s both/and.
We’d all do well to recognize and turn down or turn off some of the noise in our lives. When God speaks, it’s important. And while I’m at it, we’d also do well to realize that hearing God isn’t especially complicated. Maybe we complicate it because we try to do it in the midst of the noise of life, but often times, it’s as simple as stopping, shutting up, and listening.