Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Am a Nobody to Whom God Speaks

Monroe County

I confess that God speaks to me. In this regard I'm nobody special. See T.R. Luhrman's anthropological- and psychological-based essay "If you hear God speak audibly, you (usually) aren't crazy."

She writes:

"For the last 10 years, I have been doing anthropological and psychological research among experientially oriented evangelicals, the sort of people who seek a personal relationship with God and who expect that God will talk back. For most of them, most of the time, God talks back in a quiet voice they hear inside their minds, or through images that come to mind during prayer. But many of them also reported sensory experiences of God. They say God touched their shoulder, or that he spoke up from the back seat and said, in a way they heard with their ears, that he loved them. Indeed, in 1999, Gallup reported that 23% of all Americans had heard a voice or seen a vision in response to prayer."

I have had such experiences - many of them. My spiritual journals are a record of the voice and activity of God in my life. I have over 3000 pages of journal entries in the past 35 years documenting such things, as they happen to me. Not all the pages record instances of hearing God, but many do. I am a nobody to whom God speaks.

In my Ph.D work at Northwestern I did neurophysiological studies on language processing, especially as it relates to religious language. I am familiar with the physical neural happenings of language and experience. When I hear God speak to me of course something neural is happening. But it's not my physical brain that's making this up, as I understand this, using inference to the best explanation.

Hearing God speak is important. Speaking intra-Christianly, if a preacher does not hear from God, then I am not interested. Hearing God should be a common experience of quite ordinary people, which includes your basic preacher. God is estraordinary, we preachers are not. Luhrman writes: "About a third of the people I interviewed carefully at the church where I did research reported an unusual sensory experience they associated with God. While they found these experiences startling, they also found them deeply reassuring."

As we approach Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday it is instructive to remember that what god did through Dr. King was rooted in his hearing God speak to him. Luhrman notes this. King bographer Lewis Baldwin records this. Baldwin writes that once Dr. King received a phone call at midnight from a racist who called him a “n*****,” and threatened to kill him and “blow up” his home. This deeply disturbed him, and he was unable to sleep.

Baldwin states:

“Knowing that the theology he had studied in the corridors of academia could not help him and that he had nowhere else to turn, King had a face-to-face encounter with what he, in the tradition of his forebears, called a “Waymaker,” exposing his fears, insecurities, and vulnerablities with sincerity and humility. Great comfort came as an “inner voice” spoke to King, reminding him that he was not alone, commanding him to stand up for righteousness, justice, and truth, and assuring him that “lo, I will be with you, even to the end of the world.”” (Lewis Baldwin, Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King Jr., 69)

Engage with God and listen.