Over a meal we were chatting with our friends Mark and Jo about various aspects of what it means to experience Jesus within the course of a day. Mark shared this article with us that he wrote late last year and Jenny and I felt it would be really helpful for others to read. It really is a modern day parable or story. What do you think?
A MODERN DAY PARABLE
Recently, when my wife and I were at home one evening, a text bearing my younger son’s name duly arrived in my inbox. We had been expecting it, as he had been out for the evening with friends and the time for Dad’s taxi was nigh! But when I opened the message, the wording might just as easily have been attributable to a Martian! No, I’m not talking about ‘text speak’, which indeed is a different language in need of an interpreter at times, but instead I’m referring to the style of language used. Intuitively I knew it wasn’t my son who pieced together the words I was reading. Who am I trying to kid? Intuition had nothing to do with it! Even the opening ‘Hi Dad’ didn’t ring true and the signing off with two ‘xx’ was nothing, if not a dead giveaway; but being the cautious creature I am, I ignored the language that betrayed the impersonator and responded to the main message asking me to pick him up, asked where I should meet him, and who else I could give a lift to. The reply was equally as unconvincing and lacking authenticity as the first and so I responded by saying I didn’t think this was my son texting but that I would be on my way! Sure enough, the impersonator owned up and I smiled to myself as I drove to the pick up point.
MY SHEEP KNOW MY VOICE
All these thoughts and a host of others swirled around my overcrowded brain a couple of days later, as I walked my dog in a beautiful part of Dorset close to where we live. I often use these times of relative solitude to communicate with God, but before anyone starts to view me as some sort of super-spiritual being I must confess to having equally as many times when my mind wanders and I can’t even utter a word of prayer. I’ve never been especially good at this talking to or hearing from God thing and it was this issue that was to the forefront of my mind as I began, falteringly, to utter some words to my Father in heaven, this particular morning.
As I pondered my text exchange with my son’s friend / son, it occurred to me that it was linked to the point Jesus made in John 10:27: ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me’. I like to think that I know my son well enough to know whether a message from him is authentic or not, and likewise, I’m pretty sure he would know whether it’s me texting. Why? Because of our relationship. Even if the text I received was more carefully worded, I would have known instinctively if it was genuine. So it got me thinking; I am sure, the moment I utter my first syllable in prayer, He knows it’s me; and here I should mention that I tend to pray out loud on these walks, careful to check that no one is within earshot, though I am certain that one day I’ll get caught out! But if He were to speak to me now, would I know it’s Him? Am I just as likely to conjure up my own thoughts and then convince myself, really via logical thought, that it was God speaking to me? You know the kind of thing – I look at a tree, see how it grows and dies back each year, and conclude that if God can sustain a tree with no intervention from man, then surely He is able to look after me. Whilst I have no doubt such a thought contains truth, is that really Him speaking to me personally?
ALL YOU NEED IS ME
I felt weighed down with various issues as I walked on, particularly in relation to my job. I said something to God akin to the following; ‘I know You know it’s me, but I so want to hear from You this morning. I don’t just want to use my own logic to come up with something, I want to hear what You have to say and to know that it’s You’. Nothing particularly happened immediately. Then another thought permeated through; ‘I know that all I need is You’. That’s when the nub of it hit me squarely between the eyes – or rather directly in the heart; as I alluded to earlier, I am nothing if not cautious. I like to plan, I like to be prepared; my long suffering family will testify that I am a stickler for wanting to be early for every appointment, or at least to be on time; this trait in me takes on almost astronomical proportions! ‘Organised’ is my middle name. Now, at the risk of babies and bathwater, I do recognise some positive aspects to my particular leanings, but that said, I still take it to another level!! Why is this so? Quite honestly, it must be rooted, at least to some degree, in fear. Unless I’m in control and have it all sorted, things could go wrong, is the thought pattern. Futile thinking when pitted against the God of the universe! So when I talked to Him about some forthcoming issues at work, the response hit me with considerable force – ‘all you need is Me. You can’t control that meeting or what will happen. You just have to trust me in the midst of it. Nothing else matters and you have nothing to fear, regardless of what the outcomes may be’.
I KNEW IT WAS HIM
That was it! I knew, unequivocally, that He had spoken to me on a personal level. But ‘hey’ I hear you cry, ‘was that not clear logical thinking too?’ Sorry, not this time. Why am I so certain? Did I hear an audible voice? I would love to say yes, but no, I didn’t; but I was certain because I sensed it in my spirit; there was an inner conviction about it. If you want to put it in spiritual terms, His spirit communicated with my spirit. Intuitively, if you like, I knew it was Him. You see, when my son sends me a text message, I can’t actually see him or hear him; but I still know if the words appearing on my smart phone are actually from him. Alright, I didn’t get a text message from God, but it undoubtedly felt like I had. The end experience was the same. God knows me. He knows my propensity to want it all sewn up, all in place, and nothing left to chance. But He also knows that this doesn’t help me trust Him; it only results in me putting all of my faith in me.
Having recounted my story, and knowing my tendency to control, I could easily decide to walk my dog at the same time each Sunday, asking the same types of questions, and expecting God to speak to me. I might even decide to always write an article every time He speaks to me and turn it into a manual for day to day living with God! But the truth is, there’s too much of that that goes on already, and, let’s face it, relationships don’t work like that, do they?
HE WANTS US TO KNOW HIM
I write these things, not to boast about having heard from God, but just to encourage you that if an average Joe like me can hear from the living and loving God, then anyone can. I don’t write this either, to try to convince you that God exists; it is not for me to put forth eloquent arguments to convince anyone of that. An old friend of mine recently said to me that no-one can be certain of God’s existence; I can’t pretend to know the inner experience of my friend, but of course equally, he couldn’t possibly know mine either; I can only testify to what and who has been revealed to me, and the rest is down to whether you trust that I’m being honest or whether I have completely lost my marbles!
But I close with this; the living and loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, knows us intimately and wants us to know Him in the same way. He wants relationship and He has our best interests at heart. There is nothing to fear. Relationship with Him is everything. Now, the trick will be to rely on Him on a daily basis; I just need to listen closely enough and I’ll know in my spirit when He speaks…..intuitively if you like! And hopefully I will be discerning enough to recognise imposters; even friendly and harmless ones!