A few months ago, I visited one of my favorite downtown churches because I had not heard their preacher in a while. My primary intent was to break up the monotony of my own experience, without the expectation of hearing a life-changing sermon that seemed tailor-made for me.
Just as I got comfortable in my pew, Dean Snyder opens his series on prophecy by saying:
I do not think God only speaks when our experience of it is miraculous or supernatural or strange. God speaks into our lives through the words of friends and teachers and parents and coworkers and members of our small group. For every single time that God speaks in a miraculous or supernatural or weird way, God speaks a hundred thousand times in what we consider to be ordinary ways, but which are not really very ordinary at all.
I needed to hear this because God and I have drama. No fewer than a hundred times did people tell me at different points that I should be preaching. That did not suit my concept of myself so I systematically ignored them. Then God awakened me from the dark of night with an experience too cataclysmic for words and shook me to my core. I responded in faith by accepting the call, quitting my job, and moving away to attend seminary.
Snyder stated further that:
God only uses a sledgehammer when our defenses are really, really thick. God doesn’t use a sledgehammer to crack open a walnut. If you’ve experienced a weird, supernatural, obviously miraculous prophecy in your life, it is not a compliment. It is not because you have a special gift. It is because you have a special denseness.” (Pause for the rooster to crow thrice).
It would make for good narrative if I could say that every day afterwards has been easy as Sunday morning. God and I went from gross intimacy and speaking constantly to cold distance and prolonged periods of silence. Having the gift of prophecy, it was no big thing for God to drop a word in my spirit. I had answers to questions I dared not even ask. That was special.
Here I was thinking I was special for so many years because God revealed Godself to me to in such a powerful way to reorder my world. The experience turned me into a spiritual drama mama. There have been other times since then when I heard what I wanted to hear in matters big and small. I needed an ecstatic, overwhelming experience to compel me to take leaps of faith from that point forward.
“Many of us try to protect ourselves from hearing a word from God. For many of us life is demanding enough, uncontrollable enough, without God speaking a word of new possibility to us.” (Dean, get off my feet please).
I have taken enough lumps to force me to tune my spiritual receptors to discern when God is speaking. Just as in earthly relationships, the need for drama is not healthy. Recall the story of Elijah in Kings 19:11-14. God ordered Elijah to wait on him. First came an earthquake, then a fire. God was not in either. Then came a still small voice that revealed the message from the Lord.
On the upside, history shows a strong correlation between a dramatic call experience and the recipient’s impact on history. The apostle Paul, Joan of Ark, and Harriet Tubman are good examples, among others. A little drama can light a fire, keep things interesting, and compel one to do things that do not come naturally. Addiction to drama is counterproductive and creates an environment ripe for dysfunction and abuse in both the spiritual and natural realms.
So, so here I stand not waiting on the earthquake or fire as the only means for hearing from on high. They can be God’s means for breaking you down before building you up. Besides, I want to be found on the right side of the one who said If you love me, keep my commands (John 14:15). He deserves no less.
My low threshold for drama in the flesh is amazing in contrast to my proclivities with engaging the other world. I have tamped it down a bit, but still welcome a little spice in my spiritual life to induce me to action.