In Control

I read something from either St. John of The Cross or St. Teresa of Avila (sorry, I can’t find the reference) that asked the question: why would God speak to us when we are not neccesarily willing to obey? It is a great question that shows deep insight.

While I was reflecting on this I began wondering why we even want to hear from God when we aren’t willing (or ready) to obey? After all, it seems like we all want to hear from God. Even some of the songs we sing ask God to speak. So when God does speak, are we _always_ willing to listen? to obey? to follow? If not, then why not? We are the ones wanting to “hear from God.” Why in the world would we be hesitant to obey once God does speak…no matter what God asks or says?

I think the issue is control. We do want to hear from God, but we want to reserve the right to obey or not obey. We want to hear that God loves us and all, but if God calls us to give and/or go we want to decide if we will obey and follow. If God calls us to go where we don’t want to go, or give what we don’t want to give, we want to make the ultimate decision. Deep down we know that we can and may say “no.”

So, back to the original question; If we know that we are reserving the right to obey or not obey whenever God speaks, why should God speak at all? Does God really just want to be one option out of many in our lives? I doubt it. (I could say something about viewing God as some type of advice columnist, but I won’t).

Yet, God shows us how gracious he is because he continues to speak to us even when all parties involved know it all might fall on deaf ears. God continues to invite us deeper.

When I am willing to follow, no matter what, I  become more receptive and I sense God speaking into my life more. I find that God is able to lead and guide me. This is also what I see in the lives of faithful men and women of God throughout history. They heard from God, because they were willing to follow. The issue isn’t that God doesn’t want to speak to us, the issue is we really don’t want to hear. Those who are willing to hear, obey, and follow, they are the ones who find God continuing to speak into their lives. The result is they are able to truly become who God has created them to be, because they are allowing God to lead and guide them.

If you desire to hear from God, perhaps the first step is to trust God and be willing to follow once you do hear.

More than Chaplains

I was intrigued by something I read in Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon

The pastor becomes nothing more than the court chaplain, presiding over ceremonies of the culture, a pleasing fixture for rites of passage like weddings and funerals, yet rites in which the pastor’s presence becomes more and more absurd because the pastor is saying nothing that we do not already know. Or else the pastor feels like a cult prostitute, selling his or her love for the approval of an upwardly mobile, bored middle class, who, more than anything else, want some relief from the anxiety brought on by their materialism.

I guess this is what happens when we, as pastors, allow ourselves to be captured by our culture. It is hard however. The culture is so pervasive and it is difficult to to break free. This is why I believe spiritual formation is vital. The spiritual disciplines serve to create space in our lives for God to move. As we allow God to reign in our lives, we are freed to do the works of God and speak the words of God.