My Obsession: Part I
by Conflicted Pastor
I have long been obsessed with hearing the voice of God. Or, at least, hearing someone tell me what the voice of God said to them, preferably about me. Through all of the ups and downs of my Christian life I have always wanted to do what God wanted me to do. I have always believed that God had a specific plan for my life, but more than that, for each of my decisions. I thought that each major decision in my life was one with a right and wrong answer and that God had the right answer for me. I just needed to hear what that right answer was.
My entire life is peppered with youth retreats, Christian conferences and special guest speakers. In the charismatic world, many of the keynote speakers at these types of events are people with prophetic gifts and talents (for any God-less homosexuals that might be reading this, those are people who basically tell you what God is saying). Many of these prophetic types will prophesy by calling people out from the crowd and tell them what God is saying to them. I always approached these prophetic meetings with equal parts excitement and fear.
I was excited because I hoped that the prophet would call me out of the crowd and tell me, in front of the entire audience, that God was going to use me to do something great. “You, there in the middle, with the blue shirt, please stand up. God is saying that you will start a band that will reach millions of people. You will perform in stadiums in front of tens of thousands of people. There is also a wealthy person in this room right now whom God is telling to give you a sizable donation, right now, so that you can start this immensely important ministry immediately.”
But, at the same time, I was fearful because I thought the prophet would call me out of the crowd and tell everyone my deepest, darkest secrets. “You, there in the middle, with the blue shirt, please stand up. God is saying that he sees you. He sees you in that drug store ripping the plastic cover off the Penthouse. He hears your filthy thoughts as you sit in this very meeting. God says to you, ‘REPENT!'”
After high school I went to Christ For The Nations in Dallas, Texas and there must have been a dozen prophetic guest speakers that year. During that time I was going through a phase where I was more fearful than excited. I would generally sit in one of the last few rows hoping that these oracles wouldn’t pick me out of the crowd. Towards the end of the year my defenses were wearing down, and I felt, very strongly, that I needed to let my guard down and let the prophet-of-the-week speak into my life.
I remember this one service very clearly. I was sitting in the back and at the end of the service the prophet-of-the-week had an altar call. Many people went running up to the front and the speaker would go down the line and tell each person what God was saying to him about them. I was reluctant, but finally decided that I needed to submit my own will and be open to what God had to say to me. I made my way down to the front and squeezed into the line. I was probably up there for 20 minutes as the speaker was making his way through the line. And, as he got closer to me, I began to get very nervous and even considered backing out. However, I decided to stick it out because I had this sense that this particular moment was important. I had a lot of questions about my future and didn’t really know what my next step should be. As the speaker was prophesying over the person next to me I began to prepare myself. I closed my eyes, prayed, and lifted my hands (standard ‘receiving’ posture). The speaker steps in front of me, grabs my hands and begins to prophesy.
“God sees that you have many questions and your answers will come in time.”
What the fuck was that?! I’ll tell you what that was. That was a guy who has spent the last 30 minutes praying for people that sees the end of the line and just wants to get out of there. Should I be mad at him or God? Maybe that was what God wanted to say to me. Maybe He just wanted to be really vague and not any real help at all. Jerk.
Since that time my attitude towards prophetic people has been up and down. I have gone through long periods where I didn’t want anything to do with them, and I have gone through periods where I jumped at every opportunity to have someone prophesy over me. Regardless of my attitude towards prophetic ministry, I always wanted to know what God wanted me to do, and where God wanted me to go.
I can’t count how many prayers I have prayed asking God to give me direction. I never have received a clear answer about anything. My answers always come through some high level sleuth work. I’m constantly trying to connect the prophetic dots to come up with the answer to my question. Most of these questions have been about jobs and location. Where to work and where to live.
I have a very recent example that has become typical of my quest to hear the voice of God.
Several years ago my wife and I lived in Austin, Texas for a year. During that time we made some very close friends that we are still close with to this day. We have always felt that we were supposed to be in ministry with these friends. I can’t explain why we felt this way, other than the fact that both my wife and I have had this feeling in common. After Austin, we had to move back home for financial reasons. That move was particularly hard because we didn’t know what we were supposed to do, and we wanted desperately to know what God wanted us to do. Over the years we stayed in the same area and our friends all eventually moved to Nashville. A couple of years ago we went to visit them (our friends) for a week, and after the visit we felt, more strongly than ever, that we were supposed to move to Nashville. Our friends felt this as strongly as we did. They had just started a church in Nashville, and we were all planning how my family could make the move.
But, as usual, there were a few major obstacles. The first was that I needed to find a job that would pay enough so my wife could stay at home with the kids. This was non-negotiable. The other obstacle was that we owned two houses and would need to sell both, in a shitty housing market, before moving to Nashville.
A year passed and nothing really happened, so we just kind of stopped thinking about it. Then one day I got a call from my friend saying that he found a job that would pay me enough to facilitate the move. Now we were faced with the reality of this decision. Was this really what God wanted for us, or was it just a romantic idea that we wanted? Over the next week we had three separate people give my wife a prophetic word that seemed like it confirmed the idea that we were supposed to move. My wife was drawn to a certain scripture and these confirmations were from people who told my wife that God led them to those very same scriptures.
All of the sudden things started falling into place, and we were convinced that God wanted us to move to Nashville. We put our houses up on the market and within two months we had an offer on the house we were living in. This was it! We started packing up and were expecting that we would move after the school year was over.
Then it all started to unravel. The people who were buying our house had problems with their loan and the closing was delayed twice. My wife blew out her knee while exercising, and we found out that surgery was going to cost us about $6,000 out of pocket. Things started to become very stressful, so I decided to float the idea to my wife that we should try to back out of our contract and just stay. She jumped at the idea. The buyers were kind enough to let us out of our contract, and we decided to stay put in Texas.
I have gone through this similar scenario at least a handful of times in my life, and I always end up with the same questions. Where was the voice of God in this? Did we get it wrong to begin with? Fuck if I know. We’re happy, but a little disappointed about not being able to make the move. I feel like an idiot because I quit a job I really enjoyed for a job with far more risk in terms of longevity. Which confirmations were the right ones? The confirmations to move or the confirmations to stay?
You know, when it comes down to it… the voice of God is like the g-spot. People say that it exists. I believe it exists, but have I ever really found it? Only God and my wife truly know.
I know somewhere in this book I have probably made the statement that God is constantly speaking to us, and it’s our job to simply listen and do what He says. I know I’ve preached that message several times in our church. It’s something I think I believe, but I’m really not too sure about it. God may have a plan for your life, but He may not care about the details of that plan. On the other hand, He may care deeply about every detail of every decision you make. Some people claim to hear God often. People with a prophetic gift seem to hear God very clearly. I do believe that when that gift becomes your vocation that you probably end up making a lot of shit up. In spite of that, I don’t doubt that God speaks to people. I just can’t say with any certainty that He has ever really spoken to me.