Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Desert Place

So summer school is over for another year. Its so weird coming back from an event like that, where you have been so consumed by all that constitutes summer school; for me this includes drama obviously, but also (and mainly) trying to really help the students to get the message that we are trying to bring to them, and suddenly you are thrust back into normal life, and its as if the week never happened at all. All that you have left at the end of it is a distant memory of what happened and a full drama script which we always say we should publish but never do.

It’s funny how easy it is to fall into the trap of letting it be just another summer school. Just another big event where you have a spiritual high, and then forget about it as soon as you get back to ‘normality’. Well I am going to try really hard to not let that happen this year. Summer school is a reality. I know it’s not normality, but it is still reality. The issues, questions and lessons learned are real, they exist, and they have to be faced at and beyond summer school. So am I listening? Really listening?

A massive question which must be faced when dealing with the subject of listening for God’s voice is; what do you do when you can’t hear God. I think the first thing to do is establish some possible reasons why this may be the case:

1) It could be that the individual concerned is not really listening; not really spending time with God, genuinely asking Him to speak or making the effort to read the Bible and spend time in silence with Him, purposefully listening to His voice.

2) It could be that the individual is genuinely trying to listen to God, but there are distractions that stop them from hearing. Maybe their mind wanders in the middle of praying, or they start praying but spend their whole time praying for other people or asking God for things, that they never actually get round to listening. Maybe they start to but then they think of another person or situation to bring before God. Maybe they just tend to fall asleep.

3) It could be that the distractions have turned into barriers. They truly do take time out for God. They try to spend time with God, they read the Bible regularly and spend time quietly thinking about what it could mean both in the context of the Bile and in their own lives. They could stay focused on God throughout the whole of the quiet time, utilizing tools and methods for eliminating distractions, and yet they could remain un-tuned to the voice of God because they have things going on in their lives which they don’t want to change, don’t want to give up to God and don’t want to lose control of, whether those things are wrong in themselves or not.

4) It could be that God is purposefully not talking to them for a while. I read about this in a book once (I really can’t remember which one but will most definitely try to find out). It is very rare to hear of people who have been, “in the desert place”, and have not come out the other side much stronger in their faith, and much more dependent on God rather than themselves. I am honestly not sure why God might stop talking to them for a while. I need to re-read that book I think, any comments on this would be appreciated. At the end of the day, God knows what He is doing, and if He really has stopped talking there will be a reason for it that makes sense.

As I was writing the four categories above I was thinking that one of the problems might be knowing which of the categories your desert place was related to, (if any). However, on reflection I think it is pretty clear. If you are not spending time with God, it could be to do with category 1. Sort that out and then see where that takes you. If you get easily distracted in your prayer times, then you are in category 2. Try using methods and tools for keeping focused – writing down your prayers, meditating on scripture, memorizing Bible verses etc. Then see where that takes you. For the people in category 3 it can be very difficult to admit that you are in this place. Generally if you don’t want to give something up to God to take control of, then it is easier to pretend you don’t realize it and to ignore it and to say therefore that you must be in category 4. However, I believe that if you pray enough for God to speak, and there is something in your life that needs to be given to God then God will reveal it to you. You usually know deep down that you are in category 3. You just need to admit it and deal with it, praying that the desire to be close to God and really in tune with Him becomes stronger than the desire to hold onto whatever it is. This can be a dangerous place to be in because if you stop hearing God’s voice, it is easy to become disillusioned and therefore further away from God, meaning that the desire to give something up to Him is lessened as well, and therefore making the situation worse. It is so important so be totally in love with God, totally consumed by Him, really eager to maintain a close, deep friendship with Him. I guess we have to rely on the Spirit to give us those desires,

Category 4 is much more difficult. If God has stopped talking, how can we help the people in that place to not start doubting the existence of God. I can’t really blame people for doubting when God stops talking. You can go through the whole process of thinking, any time that I experienced God in the past I could have been making it up. It could have been psychological, me wanting to hear God so much and so fabricating that experience in my head. Where I am now is the reality, no voice, no God. (For starters, if you fabricated those experiences in the past out of a deep desire to hear God’s voice, why would that not be happening this time?) Of course, it is a matter of faith. Saying in spite of the doubts, I choose to believe. Making it a choice based on knowledge rather than on feelings. “Blessed be your name, when I’m found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be your name.” This is a very difficult song to sing in the face of this kind of doubt, and yet it is based on real truth.

Of course, it may not be as clear cut as this all suggests. For some the desert place may consist of a number of factors spanning all 4 categories, and most likely there are other categories I have missed out, but these were specifically the things that I felt had been identified during the week at summer school.

Sorry that this entry has been much more statements rather than questions. (That is actually unusual for me!) I just really wanted to scratch down all my thoughts about this. As you can probably see, I have thought about this a lot and am really trying to figure this all out mentally and intellectually. However, this does not mean that it will be sorted. Knowing what to do is not enough. It requires action, and that is the bit we have to be prepared to do if we genuinely want to hear from God. How can we make ourselves want to do this? For those of us in category 3, how can we make the desire for God’s voice stronger than the desire to hold on to our baggage?

Answers on a postcard please!!!

Monday, August 14, 2006


Ok, a quick break from all the heavy stuff. I just felt that I had to quash any rumours Matt White may be spreading about me not completing grippage. I DID complete grippage. It may have been a small table, but it was a success for Kirsty none-the-less. Just so that everyone is aware of the truth.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Individual Design

This topic springs from the last, in that it once again deals with God’s relationship with us as individuals. I have a very specific question on my mind right now: Did God design each of us individually? Did He think about each one of us, think about what features we would have, how tall we would be, how crooked our smile would be, etc? Did He design us with delicacy and precision, not just as a race but as an individual? Some Bible passages certainly give us that impression:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139: 13-14

Your hands shaped me and made me... Did you not clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews? You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit. Job 10:8-12

However, having spent time doing many internet searches on this topic, I have found relatively little else to support this view. I can’t find any other scripture that suggests this sort of intricate, individual design. Even these two passages do not explicitly state that God designed each of us (bodily) in detail. Take for example Psalm 139: What is it actually saying?

This is basically, (I think), poetic language to describe the idea that God created us and knows us intimately and personally. It is mainly discussing the fact that God knows us, knows everything about us. The psalm does not say, “You decided what colour my eyes would be, whether I would have straight or curly hair”. It is not meant to be a theologically accurate statement that defines the exact nature of how each of us was created, but a poetic description of the presence of God in our individual lives.

“The basic thrust of the psalm is that God knows all about the psalmist, even before he was born, so it will do no good to try to hide "any wicked way" from God. There is even the poetic imagery of God carefully crafting him in the womb, with the implication that if God made him then God would know everything there is to know about him. With that confession that God knows all about him, the psalmist places himself in submission to God, and uses that confession as the basis of the prayer for God's guidance in the "way" of life.” Dennis Bratcher - Psalm 139:16 and Predestination: Text Criticism and Interpretation.

This is not a discussion about whether God created human life – I believe He did, but I think that He designed human life so that genetics could determine that sort of thing. Therefore, if there is something about or bodies that we don’t like, or tend to moan about, we aren’t saying that we don’t like God’s workmanship. Its not humanity in general that we are moaning about, but about the specifics of that which were not necessarily designed by God, but happened through the design process which God set out. Obviously, fixation on the outward appearance is still contrary to the instructions of scripture – (“Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7b), but it is surely not for the reason that we are criticising God’s creation, rather that our focus is wrong.