Two years into my journey following Jesus, I’m still figuring out how to have a conversation with him. 24 months in and it still feels awkward talking, so much so that my preference is to avoid it, to talk around it with other people, to let others do it while I bow my head, close my eyes and try to avoid thinking about things like whether or not Iron Man 3 is going to be The Return of the King or Spider-Man 3 (fingers crossed for the former).
My avoidance of a conversation with God has led to my quiet times being mostly about two things: studying scripture and writing things down for him. That is to say, reading the Bible like I did a Tale of Two Cities, preparing for the discussion in my English lit class in college. Or writing down a list of need-to-haves, nice-to-haves and let-me-know-what-you-think-about-these. Not very much listening.
Which seems such an obvious oversight. I mean, how horrible is it to talk with someone who doesn’t listen? And I’m that guy! With God! It seems even more absurdly horrible and stupid when I consider that I’m communicating with a being who is all-knowing and all-powerful. And I can’t shut up about myself and my amazingly limited viewpoint about things.
I think it’s because, deep down, I don’t want to listen to what God has to say. I want to stay in charge; so I come to God figuring out his word by my own analysis, drawing my own conclusions, presenting to him a list of options approved by me, for me.
I understand that to truly listen to what God has to say about my life and how he wants to use it towards his own will, well it might look like him asking me to do things outside of my comfort zone, outside of my wants, outside of my understanding—maybe more importantly, giving certain things up. All things that might require being humble and having, gasp, faith. And that kind of freaks me out.
Luke 6:12 says:
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
The whole night praying. Surrounded by nature. Alone.
Yet, when Jesus gives instruction to the disciples about how to pray and what to say in Matthew chapter 6, it’s rather brief, less than 60 words. And he specifically says “do not keep on babbling like pagans.” Which makes me think: what was Jesus doing out there on the mountainside all night? I doubt he was babbling the whole time. I bet he was out there in the silence of the night, away from the distractions of the gathered crowds and his flock of disciples, head bowed with a heart of humility, ears wide open for the will of his father. Listening.
I took this photo on Saturday morning during my quiet time—an hour long run by myself out on the lakefront path. Before heading out, I said the Lord’s Prayer with all my fiber, focusing on the “your kingdom come, your will be done.” And then I took off running, in silence, ears wide open to listen to my father. 20 minutes later when I arrived at the pier on North Avenue beach, I hadn’t heard anything. I sat down in front of this beautiful view. All I could muster was two words: thank you. It didn’t feel awkward. It felt like praise.
I think it’s the start of a better conversation.
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