29057713“For most people, toilets are a private perch, a place for quiet contemplation.” Daniel McGinn WIRED

It happened again. I was having a time of sharing and prayer with two key church leaders when one of them shared that the Lord had spoken to him while he was on the toilet-throne. (Bear with me. I struggle for the correct euphemisms for this piece.)

I would have dismissed this as the quirky spirituality of this particular leader if not for the fact that this is but one of many such stories I have heard, many from Christian leaders. And dare I admit it, it has happened to me too.

The first time a leader shared with me that the Lord had spoken to him while he was on his toilet-throne, I reacted with bemusement. I told him I felt a little uncomfortable hearing about his loo revelation.

He challenged me by asking me isn’t the whole of life under the Lordship of Christ? Isn’t every moment of our time holy? Isn’t loo time normal human activity and not wrong morally? Isn’t Jesus truly human as He is also truly divine?

In the face of the onslaught of his rhetorical theological questions, I fell silent, rebuked. Surely an all powerful God can speak to us wherever and whenever He liked.

But all these throne room epiphanies have got me thinking. Why is God speaking to us while we are on our toilet-thrones? This is my theory.

Three key prerequisites for hearing God are stillness, silence, and solitude. Here is Jesus’s own example:

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” [Mark 1:35 TNIV]

To hear from God, we need to be still. Most of us are rushing all the time, moving from one duty to another.

To hear from God, we need to be silent, silent enough to hear His still small voice. The soundtrack of modern life is loud and insistent. (I am listening to Carole King even as I type this.)

To hear from God we need times to be alone with Him. Most of us live in the cites where horizontal relationships fill our horizon leaving no space for the vertical.

So guess where most of us experience stillness, silence and solitude on a regular basis?

Ok, maybe the olfactory environment may not be that hot but we kinda get used to it after awhile. God may want to speak to us at other times but we don’t give Him a chance. Therefore He has to speak to us in the only moments when we are still, silent, and alone.

Perhaps if we intentionally structure more listening times in our lives He may not have to resort to throne room revelations. But finding ideal times to listen to God especially if we live in major urban centres will always be a challenge. In the meantime I have taken to keeping a note pad and a pen in the loo. Just in case.

The other times when we experience stillness, silence and solitude is when we are sleeping. We may need to better understand how to interpret dreams. But that’s always a bit tricky.

What we really need to do is to structure regular times of listening into our lives. We could take regular short retreats. We could enlist the help of family or house mates to protect our quiet times. We could do this for each other.

We need to hear from God more than ever. Some of us are facing key decisions about career or relationships. All of us are struggling to make sense of a world filled with natural and man made tragedies. Indeed the two key verbs of a life of faith are “Hear” and “Obey”.

More than that, God wants to speak to us words of hope and healing. He wants to encourage us so that we can encourage others. Abba Father wants to speak to us the words of life. But often He can’t get a word in edgewise.

So our loving God condescends to speak to us where He can. Maybe He shouldn’t have to.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan