How Does God Speak? Everyday Thoughts Pt. 2
Last post I talked about one way God speaks: our thoughts.
I suggested you sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song in your head. You are not hearing it with your ear, but you are ‘hearing’ it. Now, picture the front door of your house and walk inside and look around. You are not seeing your house with your eye, but you are ‘seeing’ it.
Because we use words like ‘imagination’ to describe this type of mental activity or brain function, which we may use to create or make up things in our mind that are not “real” (or are not yet material products or concrete actions), we can diminish or be suspicious of claims to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ God in these ways. But, we also use this type of brain function to perceive and interpret what is going on around us.
Take communication with another person as an example. So much of communication is non-verbal and even the part that is audible (sound waves created by the particular tones and vibrations made through our breath going across our lips, tongue and teeth in certain ways to create sounds we call language), we still have to perceive and interpret these sound waves. Different words/sounds can have different meanings, depending on order, context, intention. How many times have you misunderstood someone who shares your culture and speaks the same language, who you even know well? So, even though you are sensing the sound waves with your ear, you are still ‘hearing’ the person through your thoughts, as you interpret what these sounds mean.
Spirit, which in biblical languages was also used for ‘breath’ or ‘wind’, is a word often used to describe a realm, reality, substance of God and other ‘spiritual’ beings which our brains/emotions/bodies can also sense, albeit not just through sound waves or light. Because it is spirit doesn’t mean it is less real, or for that matter not material–it’s just not at times material in the same way as other things. Because we can sense ‘spirit’ with our minds doesn’t necessarily mean it is imagined, as in made up, or less real, not trustworthy or not dependable. Again, our judgements about this are more based on our preferences connected to our culture/worldview, which includes our epistemology (our perspectives about how we know what we know).
So, go there with me. What if there is more going on than what you sense with your ear through sound waves or your eye through reflected light? What if there is a spiritual realm that is all around, as close as your breath and fully integrated and interacting with the material stuff you are used to sensing with your ‘5 senses’ and paying attention to.
A helpful way to imagine this is to think about all the cell phone conversations that are taking place, or the radio waves carrying music, talk shows, news, or all the information, images, etc. flying through the air via wifi networks. All of it is going around and through you. Just ‘imagine’ that for a moment.
You need certain devices to tune in to decipher, see, hear and experience all that stuff invisibly moving around you, and even with the right device you need the right permissions (password, etc) to access it.
“I pray that the God of King Jesus our Lord, the father of glory, would give you, in your spirit, the gift of being wise, of seeing things people can’t normally see, because you are coming to know him and to have the eyes of your inmost self opened to God’s light. Then you will know exactly what the hope is that goes with God’s call; you will know the wealth of the glory of his inheritance in his holy people; and you will know the outstanding greatness of his power toward us who are loyal to him in faith, according to the working of this strength and power.” –Paul, Ephesians 1:17-19 (translation by NT Wright)
Now, there is alot going on in this verse, but Paul here and elsewhere talks about the ‘unseen’ being more ‘real’ (and permanent) than the ‘seen’, of having our minds renewed, the eyes of our heart opened, our spirit connected with the Spirit, that there is more going on than just flesh and blood…
Here’s a practical way to engage this: Pay attention to what (and who) you are paying attention to. This is a big topic. Our minds are active throughout the day (and night), but what are our brains active about, focused on, seeing and hearing the world through? This takes a little extra attentiveness or focus, but as you are going through your day notice not just your thoughts (and feelings), but what and who you are paying attention to and how. This can give you insights about how you pay attention to things (and therefore how you will most likely hear and see God) and what and who you are listening to–possibly (likely?) instead of God, or the person, task or situation also right in front of you.