I've had an interesting relationship with God over the years. He is ever-present though not always felt, will speak up on occasion, be silent much of the time but also orchestrate elaborate webs of spiritual formation along with God knows what else. He has a sense of humor, loves natural imagery and though he is so other and perfect is the kind of God you can sense will just sit with you. More interesting still is when God starts to tell you things that make concrete differences you can see.
The Little Things
Much of the time I do not suspect God speaks to me, but the times I treasure most besides the vision of light, have been those quiet times when he has whispered gems of wisdom at just the right time. For example, when during the day I was passing the grass field at Biola that I used to like to pray in the middle of late at night, he stopped me and had me go out and look up. I was not sure why, but it is not often when I suspect I hear something (and even then one can often just suspect) and so I looked. There was a brilliant view of the mountains from that spot! "Why didn't I notice these before!? I've looked out this way during the day too!" And then, they were always there even when covered by the smog and clouds just as I am always here even when you do not see me. And yet, then there was that time when I was meditating on Matthew 11:28-30 with the camp kids and was pierced. I am not like your abuser. I was hurt and in denial at first, but he was right that at a level I felt that way and so I worked through it. And worse, there was that time when I wanted to hear from him and hadn't for quite some time so I prayed and waited for a month and then when crossing the street: How would you feel if you thought you could not study at Fuller anymore? And soon after I lost funding (but now resolved). All of these even though painful at the time helped me grow and trust him. Still, if I am honest, the times I learned to trust him the most were those days in my past when he felt absent (more on this another time).
God Cares About Our Messed Up Relationships
And then there are those very odd times where God orchestrates something and involves you out of the blue. It never ceases to amaze me how much God cares about our interpersonal lives even while he holds the entire universe together and is intimately involved in a highly complex way with how all of the pieces move together. But that is who he is. He cares to such an infinite degree.
A long while ago, I had a dream where I saw a friend's girlfriend named Jenn very clearly the day before I met her. The next day I was so freaked out I even got into a denial argument with her: "No, your name can't be Jenn!" "My name is Jenn..." Puzzled I interacted with her, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary about her and we got along just fine. She was quite pleasant to be around. I was bothered for months. She kept interacting with me and frankly my radar would not have gone off if it were not for that dream. In time, she seemed to know several old friends I was no longer in contact with too. Well, long story short: She had my friend trapped in a morbid web of lies! She had made him think he was personally responsible for her being raped by someone 3 times, having a stillborn baby she supposedly named after him (she was never pregnant) and a whole lot of other things including an evil twin 'Jenna' who was really" to blame for everything--all aimed at keeping him with her. It may sound ridiculous from the outside, but if you are in the middle of a manipulative person's web of deceit you will gradually believe anything.
She would even stalk individuals in his life and pretend she knew extended network connections and use it to lodge herself in his life. I gathered this information for a while and ended up confronting her myself with another person in authority. My friend was a mess for quite some time, but at least free of her. God saw the mess he was in and by extraordinary means used someone else to step in where my friend could not. I don't think I ever told him the circumstances surrounding how I figured out all the lies, but God had it in mind to step in and I got to be a small part of it even though I was still young and had so many problems of my own. And I am sure God sent all sorts of people my way as well and still does! He uses us in powerful ways to form, rescue and walk alongside those around us.
And then I am reminded of some recent events where I was told to pray out of the blue for someone and then act in faith at a certain time when I saw the image of Jesus out on the water. I was so confused until I was there and followed the instructions! The results were huge and I was delivered from a piece of a very big ongoing problem. Without going too much into detail, I suspect the other person God used at the moment had no idea what he was doing or that God was prompting him to act since it went against his best interest and his interests may possibly be entirely opposed to God's. And there it is, one of the difficulties with being in a relationship with God, or merely being used by him for a moment: God cares about everyone else, not just you and will put you in harm's way to accomplish certain ends. And yet, in another sense what he develops in you in the process if you will let him is usually in the big picture the highest good you can receive.
The Spirit Is the Space Between Us
Something that struck me in hindsight about that time I was enveloped in light was how personal and everywhere present God was. So intimately intertwined with our reality and yet we do not see it in the every day. We do not understand the space we inhabit or the high stakes of our interactions with others. Not only does God see everything we do and think, but is intimately present in the midst of it all.
Recently, I have been involved in a highly complex and messy situation that has caused me personal harm (though just a moment in eternity). Still, in the midst of it all, I have realized just how interconnected we truly are in the Spirit. I have very recently started verbally casting out spirits of deception and distortion in a certain place along with my other prayers and have been amazed at the fog that has lifted and the things even I am beginning to recognize that I could not fully before. And yet, I and others can do so because it does not matter where we are physically if the Spirit is present since he is everywhere present. He fills that space and so no one around the world is far from another when prayer is involved. My church can pray for me and I will receive it anywhere whether at school, work or home. God fills all of the quiet spaces as well and even inhabits the space between our thoughts and intentions, though they may be hidden from others they are not hidden from him.
Prayer is not something to take lightly. It's not informational. We are not telling God anything he does not know already, it is not about that. We are entering into a dynamic relationship with him where we are orienting ourselves, our desires, thoughts and will towards him and opening ourselves up to him and his world in the Spirit. We are acknowledging the power that is his (we at best have some on lend) and trusting him with ourselves. We ask him for help, hopefully, are continually recognizing and thanking him, asking him to put us in places we can help and serve, asking him to bring us into new heights of loving those around us, asking for knowledge and wisdom, for the cleansing of our minds and hearts. Prayer with God by nature interpersonal and not meant to always just a private matter. Maybe this is also why he wants us to pray for and with one another? Part of being oriented towards God is being oriented in love towards one another and come alongside them in the Spirit. We were ultimately made for being in a loving relationship with others within a relationship with God.
Then there are those uncomfortable times when God sends us or others to us to expose aspects we want to keep hidden or are ashamed of. In my experience, those are the best times and have the most opportunities for becoming the person God intends and there is nothing better than this. I am not struggling with feeling exposed at the moment, but I am having a difficult time with something else and am not sure what the next several weeks or years will be like (though some very interesting good and positive developments as well), but I can definitely say God is at work and so I will not be overly concerned no matter what happens. Still, pray for me. ;)