Now and then, I hear someone claim God spoke to them. On my end, that pronouncement is always met with a healthy dose of skepticism. I’m skeptical because, all too often, what these people claim God told them is manipulative and self-serving. Take Oral Roberts, for example. In 1987, Roberts claimed that God told him to raise $8 million. If he didn’t, God said He would “call him home”. What’s so self-serving about a man of God raising money, you might ask. Nothing, if the money had been used for ministry. But, in this case, it was used for Italian suits, diamond rings and gold bracelets; all strategically air-brushed out of publicity pictures by Roberts staff. That’s an extreme example, I know. But, I think you get my drift.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe God communicates with us on a regular basis. I just don’t believe most people when they claim to have received a message from on high. Part of the reason I don’t believe them is the message itself, part is how the message is received. I’ll deal with the message first.
Quotations abound about how humankind has created God in its own image. One of my favorites comes from Anne Lamott who said ““You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” I would paraphrase that, saying “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when you like the things He tells you to do.” Like most Christians, I believe I’ve communicated with God, but that’s where we part company. The God I’ve talked to rarely asks me to do things I’m comfortable with or confirms things I already want to do. For example, I’m not really an outgoing person by nature and public speaking freaks me out. Yet, not long after I returned to the church, I felt called to sign up as a scripture reader and worship leader during service. I knew that call came from God, because there was no way in Hell I was getting up in front of a bunch of people and speaking. There have been other times I’ve felt called; some worked out, some didn’t. But, never was that call something easy or of direct benefit to me. In fact, when I’ve tried to do things that would personally benefit me, they’ve failed (see the donate button on the right? Never been clicked). That’s not to say I haven’t benefitted from the things God has asked of me. I spent over 6 years as a youth leader and those were some of the best years of my spiritual life. But, I never got paid, never got any stuff and never got famous. And, I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Everybody communicates with God in their own way, I get that. I realize that the way I communicate with Him is going to be vastly different from the way others do, mostly because I’m weird. When I hear God speak, He’s kind of snarky, even a smart-ass. It’s certainly not all flowery with grand pronouncements of what He wants me to do. It’s not even a voice at all, to begin with. It will start as an idea or an urge that just won’t go away. It never comes when I’m praying or meditating. When it comes, it will be during some mindless activity. If I hesitate to act long enough, then I’ll hear a voice saying something like, “You know, I don’t have all day for you do this…, oh wait, I’m God. I have all the time I need. But, you don’t. Get to work, dumb ass!” Sometimes I wonder if I’m really that different from everyone else. Maybe the people who act like God speaks to them in some Old Testament voice are putting up a front and, in reality, He’s just as snarky with them as He is with me. Truth be told, I like snarky God much better than Old Testament God. He’s much more accessible. Which is a good thing.