When do you normally hear from the Lord? I normally hear from the Lord in the morning when I am just waking up. I am lying in bed, not yet fully awake. And in that in between time, no longer asleep but not yet fully awake, I hear Him speak. Happened just a few mornings ago.
Periodically I am overwhelmed with the desire to lead a church, to serve as a lead pastor. The feeling came again when I took a church camp recently. I wondered if I would ever have the opportunity to lead a church again and help shape a community with the things I have learned from the Lord through the years. I now have the privilege to serve as the honorary associate pastor of a wonderful community. And the Lord has given Bernice and me the vision of promoting spiritual friendship in church and society through publishing and training. He continues to confirm that vision every day in very concrete ways. Yet I continue to be haunted by these periodic seizures of the desire to lead a church.
A few mornings ago the Lord told me what these seizures were all about. It was mid-life crisis. OK this is probably my fifth mid-life crisis. But it is true that as I hit 53 I am aware I no longer have all the time in the world to do all I would like to do. But I am not to confuse mid-life crisis with a prompting from the Lord. If the Lord wants me to lead a church again He will let me know. Meanwhile I am to be faithful to the work He has already given me. The word came to me a few mornings ago as I lay half asleep, half awake.
I wonder why I hear from the Lord most often in my half awake state. I suspect that when I am fully awake and rushing through my day there is just so much noise in my spirit that it is hard for the Lord to get a word in edgewise. I realise that I have a very active mind and that I am thinking all the time, that my inner being is constantly inundated with self talk. It is so easy for the “gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:12) of the Lord to get drowned out. And then there is all that outside noise.
Dr. John J. Medina reminds us that when we sleep “no sensory information is coming in to you. Your eyes are closed, your ears are stopped up, you’re not speaking, you’re not smelling, in fact you can’t access those senses for awhile. All of your sensory information has now been shut off or at least put into sleep mode” (“What Every Business Person Should Know About the Brain,” ETHIX, Issue 37, September/October 2004, p.13).
Therefore as I am coming out of my sleep, there is both silence within — my mind hasn’t yet revved up for the day, and there is silence without — I am just coming out of my sleep mode having fasted from external sensory input throughout the night. And in this stillness I hear from Him.
I have also had the same experience when I am waking up from naps at other parts of the day. Many of my sermon ideas have come to me at such “waking up” times. I see it as further evidence of the graciousness of God — that He constantly visits me and speaks to me, not when I am in my Sunday best, but when I am in my sarung and vest.
I can now better appreciate why the Lord spoke to Samuel in the night (1 Samuel 3:1-10). In the silence of the night, with inner and outer noise stilled, Samuel hears God calling to him. Indeed Samuel is instructed to lie down (v.9) to be in a stance where he can hear the Lord.
I am not trying to universalise my experience. We are all hot-wired differently and each of us will have our preferred time when we best hear from Him. And of course we must test all our thoughts and promptings (1 Thessalonians 5:21) with the Word (Acts 17:11). But listen to Him we must. And for that we need silence.
We live in apocalyptic times. Now more than ever we need to hear what the Spirit is saying to His people (Revelation 2:7). So whether it is in the morning as you stir from sleep or at any other part of the day, may we open our ears so that we can receive the words of life (John 6:68), for ourselves, and for others.
The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.
The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away.
(Isaiah 50:4-5 TNIV)