Tuesday, August 27, 2013

God Talking or My Subconscious?

At my church this summer, we've been making our way through the book of Acts.  I've been noticing how those early Christians got their marching orders directly from God.  This past Sunday, I thought about how different their understanding would be from mine.

Our pastor talked about Paul having a dream where God spoke to him.  How different Paul's response would be from mine.  He talked to his compatriots, and together they determined the best course of action.

I, on the other hand, would wonder if it was God talking to me or my subconscious.  I would have to wrestle long and hard with that question if I had a dream where God told me to go somewhere I wanted to go anyway.

I remember one summer years ago, when it seemed possible that we might move away from Florida.  It had been a tough hurricane season followed by a tough job year as Goldman-Sachs bought the corporation that owns my school.  All the signs seemed to be telling us that it was time to go.

I was visiting my grandmother in South Carolina and also visiting friends along the way.  There seemed to be all sorts of opportunities in other places.

I was driving through the night, and I said, "O.K. God, if you want us to move to South Carolina, have a U2 song come on the radio in the next 3 songs."

Sure enough, a song or two later, I heard Bono's beautiful baritone.  A sign from God?  Or did I know that U2 was likely to play on that classic rock station, because the d.j. had said a U2 song was coming up, and so I set God up for the answer I wanted to get?

I am not as faithful as those early Christians.  I assumed it was my not-so-subconscious at work on me. 

Those early Christians probably didn't own hurricane damaged property in an imploding housing market.  It was easier for them to pick up and go where God told them to go.  That's what I tell myself when I'm trying to let myself off the hook.

Those early Christians also didn't have the knowledge of psychology that we have.  Does our knowledge of how our brains work (or don't work) make it easier to have a true relationship with God or harder?

Whole books could be written on that subject.  I will not be writing that book.  But I will continue to ponder these questions.  I will continue to wonder how I can differentiate God's voice from that of my own desires.

And here's an interesting possibility:  what if those two voices didn't have to be so different?

Why do I assume that my desires will be base and non-sacred?  What if God plants visions and dreams directly into my deep desires and yearnings?

Or, what if God can make use of me--hopes, dreams, desires, yearnings--in whatever soil I find myself planted?

Still, on some level, I do envy those early Christians, with their assurance that they were following the will of God, with their confidence that they knew exactly what God wanted them to do.

I would also point out that some of that assurance comes from their community.  The book of Acts is not a narrative of one person having a dream and heading out on a journey.  It's the story of a group of people who live in community and constant consultation.

Maybe that's what I really envy.  I have glimpses of that kind of community, but it's a fragmented vision.  I have to balance that community with my other obligations.  I envy those early Christians, who seemed to live their whole lives with a kind of balance that seems so hard to maintain.

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