A Matter of Words

I really want to know God. Like, really. I want to be able to communicate with him. I want to know what it is to walk in his presence. I want to feel him near, and even more than mere feeling, I want him to actually be near.

So my question naturally becomes, Well, then, just how do I do that? What is required to bridge the seemingly infinite cosmic gap of time and space that exists between me and the Creator God of the universe? Is communication with him mystical? As in, does communing with God involve low lighting, special chants, and some type of out of body experience? Must my spirit somehow leave its body and cross the vast void of eternity to enter God’s presence and know him near? Does interaction with the Divine involve a transcendent experience of bright light, heightened enlightenment, and warm, fuzzy feelings?

Sometimes I wish I had such experiences. They just sound so intriguing. And what great stories they would make! Certainly upon having such an experience I could be assured that I had, in fact, touched the heart of God and that he had touched mine.

It dawned on me the other day that communicating with God does not require anything out of the ordinary whatsoever. In fact, communicating with God is achieved by exactly the same means by which I communicate with my wife, my students at school, or a stray dog on the street. Communication involves words. It always involves words. If I want to communicate something to a dog, my students, my wife, or to God himself, the only way I can do so is through my words. It’s very simple. I speak to him. That’s all it takes to create a link with the very Maker of heaven and earth. A word.

And the mindboggling thing about it is that that’s exactly the same way he communicates to me. Receiving communication from God—just like sending it—doesn’t require trances, late-night conjuring, or special sensitivity to secret, ethereal energy fields either. He speaks to me in words. And if that weren’t jaw-dropping enough, it turns out that God wrote those words down for me in a book. And I own a copy.

If you’re like me, at first glance such an idea might seem like a letdown. I’d rather fast for seven days and then scale a high mountain where I perform some ancient, mystic ceremony during which I feel all sorts of warm fuzzies and in the process experience the very presence of God. The reality is, however, that tends to speak to me around 5:43 A.M. when I’m still wearing my bathrobe and slippers, hunched over my Bible, fighting to keep my eyes open because the old, stained leather chair we got from a thrift store is way too comfortable for morning devotions. And he speaks to me when I’m walking down the hallway at school on my way to see my fourth graders, mind racing and anxious about all I need to get done. And he speaks to me when I lay my head down on my pillow at night, and when I go to the gas station, and when I’m feeling irritation well up inside me toward my wife.

And just how does he speak to me? No lights. No soft music. No smoke. Just his words. His words as he wrote them down in a book, the Book of books, the Bible. And my heart speaks back, either audibly or silently. And in that moment, I’ve communicated with God. Unfathomable. And it’s the most common experience of all, for such is every single interaction with every single human being you’ve ever had or ever will have. Communication is essentially an affair of words.

The question, then, is whether or not you hear his voice. And whether or not you answer back. In words, of course. Something that Jesus says to me often is this: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). That has become a very dear word directly from God’s heart to mine. And I would be overjoyed if you could say the same.

Whether you’ve never communicated with God before or you’ve done so innumerable times, at the heart of that communication are words. Speak to him, and then open the book he wrote for you and listen to him speak right back. It doesn’t sound as cool as mountaintop highs or ethereal energy fields, and yet, in my personal experience, it’s better. I think it’s better because it’s real. Real communication doesn’t involve such theatrics. But real communication is what the soul craves. So speak and listen. A real God is waiting for real fellowship with you through real words.

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