My husband and I love to take road trips. Sometimes we will drive around for the day looking at sights along the way. It’s fun. In the past few years we’ve taken some long road trips from Maine to Florida, Georgia, and most recently North Carolina. We always laugh at the notorious South Of The Border bill boards that say things like “Pedro’s weather report, Chili Today-Hot Tamale, 671 mi.” Really? Only 671 more miles…Great! Anyone who’s driven on I95 for a good distance has probably noticed them. According to their website they had 250 billboards at one point, that ran from Philadelphia, PA to Daytona Beach, Florida! Now that’s a lot of signs!
It got me thinking about signs. They are everywhere. They instruct us through every aspect of daily living. There’s parking signs, and no parking signs. There’s speed limit signs and stop signs. There’s rest stop signs and restaurant signs. I mean virtually everywhere you go there’s a sign telling you what’s allowed or not allowed, where it’s allowed or where it’s not allowed, and who’s allowed or not allowed to do it. The odd thing is we use them constantly but we rarely pay them much attention. Of course until we really need them. For instance do you notice where the restrooms are when you go to a new shopping mall? Not really, right, not until you need one.
I have this cooky little habit of looking for the exit signs when I go to a place like a restaurant or a movie theatre. It makes it easier to plan my escape. (That’s a topic for another time.) My family thinks it’s funny but they also notice the exit signs because they know I’ll be looking for them. Most people however usually just take those signs for granted. However if there ever were an emergency, you can bet we wont be the only ones looking for those signs.
If you go to another country where you don’t speak the language, you will gain a better understanding of just how important all of those signs really are. Once my husband and I called a taxi service at 2am in the Bronx. When the driver showed up yelling at us to get into his black-unmarked car we declined. Only later were we told by a police officer that it was a taxi and his advice was next time, get in.
Why am I talking so much about signs? Because I had a conversation not long ago about how most of us don’t think we “hear” from God. Like many people I used to think I would hear this booming voice from heaven telling me what I should do next. When I didn’t hear it, I felt a bit hurt. Why won’t you talk to me God? I’m trying to do everything I’m supposed to. I’m even being nice to the Dunkin Donuts lady who never gets my coffee right. It’s still annoying by the way. I know I’m not perfect but hey you spoke to Moses and he killed a man! I haven’t done anything like that…yet. (Just kidding God). Please just give me some kind of sign.
What I learned was that God doesn’t work that way. Not that he couldn’t, after all he’s God. He did speak to Moses face to face. God is usually more subtle. Bill Hybels describes the way God communicates as “Wind Words” in his book Whisper. I’ve heard it described as an urging, a nudge, a prompting, at a life group recently it was described as “knowing”. You know when you feel like you should call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and when you do you find out they’re going through some tough challenge. You called them just when they needed the shoulder to cry on or the really wise advice you gave that you didn’t know you had to give. That’s how God speaks. Now there are those that have claimed to audibly hear His voice but most people describe it as the former.
Some people like to say it’s coincidence or the universe providing. But it’s God. Yes it would be nice if he would use a booming voice or a giant billboard. It would be nice if he would post a “Danger Ahead, Don’t Date This Guy” sign, but he doesn’t work that way. He uses the voice of a wise friend, a co-worker, your mom, and a complete stranger at times. He’s always communicating but we need to be aware that he is so we can tune in and listen and look for his signs. Like our family noticing the exit signs, they’re there for everyone to see, but unless you’re looking for them you probably won’t notice. Occasionally God uses a giant billboard, but if you’re not aware you might just roll on past thinking, what a coincidence. If you expect God to speak in a way that’s blatantly obvious, like a shiny yellow taxi with a flashing light on the roof, you just might miss your ride.
If you really want to know how to hear from God, spend some time getting to know him. A while back I had a patient who needed an interpreter because he didn’t speak or understand English, since it’s the only language I know, we couldn’t communicate without one. After several office visits over the course of a year, I felt we had begun to establish a friendship of sorts. One day he came in alone needing help with something. The front office had called me to come speak to the man because the only information they could decipher was his name. I met with him briefly and because we had spent time getting to know one another and had established a relationship I knew exactly what he needed despite the lack of the usual communication pathway. If I had not been familiar with him I would not have been able to help him and he would surely not have been able to tell me. It’s the same idea. The more you spend time getting to know God, you will also learn how to “hear” what he’s communicating to you. Don’t wait for the emergency to look for the exit signs. If you spend time with God, reading His words and learning His ways, you’ll begin to see those signs as clearly as if they were giant billboards and you’ll find those coincidences are most likely promptings guiding you along your life path.
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5