My dog does not let me overlook her. She is always giving me opportunities to give her attention (even when I don't want to). She brings her toy over and nuzzles it - more like forces it - into my arm, begging to play. She barks when she needs to go outside or wants food. And even when she has her eye on my lunch, she makes it very obvious. On most occasions, I'll notice that twinkle in her eye getting a little too bright for my pizza slice and stop the madness before it even occurs.
The other day, while feeding my son lunch, I had a plate of lunch meat sitting on the counter. (You probably know where this is going.) While my son was chomping away at his meal, I was preoccupied with my phone.
As I was reading whatever pointless status popped up on my news feed, my dog's twinkle got awfully bright for that lunch meat on the counter. Inch by inch she closed in, eventually grabbing the red hand towel that the plate sat on top of. She pulled on the hand towel, one little tug at a time, until it finally reached the edge of the counter top and - CRASH - made a huge mess.
The plate broke to bits.
The lunch meat scattered all over the floor.
I scolded the dog right away and began cleaning up. How could I have missed that? I mean, I was standing
She didn't just bolt towards the towel, giving me no time to react. No. She was thoughtful, patient, and took her time to achieve what she wanted. And there I was, wasting time on my phone, not noticing anything, until the crash of my precious dinner plate reached my ears.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm missing something when it comes to God like I did with my dog. Distracted by whatever else is currently taking my attention, not tuning in to all the nudges or signs God is trying to communicate, until all of a sudden my life makes a huge crash and I'm forced to pay attention.
I used to always get so confused, and honestly a little skeptical, when people would say things like "God spoke to me" or "I felt the Lord was leading me in this direction". Were they really hearing from God or just using it as an excuse for what they wanted? If they were hearing from God, was it an audible voice? Why does God speak to them and not me? Did I do something wrong? Am I missing something?
Although I have believed in God my whole life, I didn't start to notice God's voice until six months (ish) ago. But, looking back at my life now, I see God was speaking to me the whole time. I just wasn't tuned in. I blamed God for the spiritual static, when in fact I was the one to blame. I had allowed other things - my own wants and desires - to take all my time and attention, leaving nothing left for the Lord.
In order to stay in communication with God, I had to implement some new habits. Prayer and reading my Bible were put first - before Netflix, before Facebook, before chores. Anytime I needed answers, I would ask God in prayer and search for verses on the subject. You see, Jesus promised us that those who seek will find (Matthew 7:7), but we have to actually do the seeking part. We can't just shake up the magic eight ball we call God and expect Him to spit out an answer whenever we please. Seek and you will find. So, starting seeking.
Jesus also promised that "[his] sheep hear [his] voice" (John 10:27). That means, if you know Him you will hear Him. Just like with any relationship, it takes time to get to know someone. The more you invest the more you will learn. The more you learn the more you know. And the more you know the more you will recognize His voice. How do you know the voice of your mom or dad? Your child? Your best friend? You've spent countless hours with those people, getting to know the ins and outs of who they are. If you do that with God, you will know his voice also.
At the end of Acts, Paul is in custody on his way to Rome to appeal his case to Cesar. He and some other prisoners are on a ship along with their guards. As they are sailing from port to port, a wind begins to press against them. For days the ship struggles to stay on course. Sailing becomes dangerous because the wind is blowing so badly in the opposite direction. Paul tries to warn the crew: "Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our lives also." (Acts 27:10). The crew does not listen to him and keeps going.
(Dun dun duuuuuun.)
"When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force...swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along...We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved." (Acts 27:13-15, 18-20)
Now is when we shake our heads and think how dumb those guys were, but aren't we the same? God blows a gentle wind against the path we're trying to take. We ignore it and continue on. The wind continues, making our path more difficult. We don't recognize it to be God and continue on. God sends a friend to warn us. We think we know better and continue on. Eventually, after trying so many times, God lets us go our own way. The winds against us stops and a "gentle south wind" blows in our direction. We convince ourselves that the south wind is a sign of "opportunity" and continue on again. Then what? We find ourselves in a storm. A storm that rages on and on. A storm that causes us to lose things. A storm that makes us give up.
I don't want us to be people that are distracted by the world around us, caught up in a storm we could have completely avoided. I want us to be the children of God who we are meant to be. The children who are meant to live freely in the will of the Lord. The children who recognize when He speaks and pay attention to his gentle nudges.
Just like my dog, the Lord is thoughtful, patient, and takes His time to get what He wants - our attention. Just like in Acts, the Lord gives us many opportunities to hear His voice. Listen for the pitter patter of paws walking towards the counter. Feel the gentle breeze blowing you in a different direction. Tune your heart away from the spiritual static and sync up to the right station. Don't let it end with a mess all over the kitchen floor. Don't let your pride get in the way or you might end up shipwrecked. God is there and He will speak to you. All we have to do is get to know Him, listen, and obey.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8
"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." Jeremiah 33:3
"And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left." Isaiah 30:21
"Whoever is of God hears the words of God." John 8:47a