By: Steve Klassen
I’ve often asked people, “Who is God using to speak into your life lately?” As I asked myself that question recently the answer came quickly – “The students of CLBI (Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute) in Camrose, Alberta.”
It’s been my privilege for the last month to journey with 46 students from CLBI as we experience a course called “Embracing a Lifestyle of Listening to God”. I started it with them in Camrose a month ago and finished it with another 2 day visit last week. In between I’ve been receiving reflections from them once a week – short reports on their “dates with God” they’ve been doing as attempts to embrace a lifestyle of listening to the God who speaks. What has unfolded has blessed my socks off.
I’ve been amazed & encouraged by their honesty and openness. They have given it a shot. With doubts, questions, former disappointments, and more, they have shown up and opened themselves up before God. And God is at work. He is speaking in many different ways; through Scripture, through creation (especially times at Mirror Lake), through little “coincidences” in the circumstances of our lives, through the growing passions of our hearts, in the stillness & silence, and more. As the only one who got to read all these reports I am reminded in a fresh way of at least 4 things:
- God speaks in the day to day grind of our lives.
- His amazing love is grounded in Jesus.
- Creation speaks loud and clear.
- We’re in this together.
Day to day grind
It was striking to see how these dates took place in a wide variety of places. Often I read things like “I’m not sure if this counts, but…” The students did a great job of including God in everything – even the messy, brokenness of their lives. And as they did I believe their ears were tuned in to see God at work. Several “coincidences” took place that only God could have orchestrated.
It’s grounded in Jesus
I love how this reflection focuses on Jesus and ends with a sense of mystery about how we will experience this grace upon grace that keeps coming our way:
“On my date with God I read the first 18 verses of John. The phrase “grace upon grace” (verse 16) grabbed me. I sat there meditating on how God sent Jesus to come to earth and show the Father’s gracious grace to us by loving us, healing us, and dying for us, so he could fully pay the price on our heads to buy us back from sin. On top of that, Jesus “revealed God to us”. We needed a revelation of God and Jesus showed us our God, our Father. Then, He sent His Spirit, who also keeps this grace upon grace thing going, as he guides us back to the Father when we stray from walking with the Son. I knew all this stuff already, but it hit me that morning like it was the first time and I just sat there kinda in awe. I’m pretty sure I’ll never understand this love and grace fully. And I think I’m okay with that.”
We hear him in Creation
Again this reflection ends with a sense of mystery and respectful trust in God’s shepherding presence in our lives.
“While I was walking and watching all the leaves swirl around, I noticed that they kind of sounded like they were shushing me and just telling me to listen to nature and forget all the thoughts going around in my mind. As I watched the leaves go everywhere I thought, “These leaves are kind of like us and God is like the wind – gently pushing us to go where he wants us to go as we let him lead us to that place.” It felt pretty cool. Also, like the wind, we can’t see God, and sometimes we don’t even realize it when he is leading us somewhere until we get there. I guess it’s a matter of trust.”
We’re in this together
Not only did God use students to encourage each other, but a significant number of others were mentioned – my Aunt, a boyfriend, teachers at CLBI, my grandmother, my Dad, my Mom, a stranger, etc. God reminded us all that we are in this thing together. We are listening for God’s voice in the community that we are placed in. We discern together. We take risks together. God’s wisdom comes to us as we are vulnerable with each other and ask for help and pray for each other.
Do we dare believe that God loves us, and longs to spend time with us? Do we dare become still and listen for his voice today? Do we dare believe he is in fact taking the first steps in this dance of life we are dancing? Absolutely! Grace upon grace is still a great way to describe God’s presence and activity in this world. Go back to John 1:1-18 and you’ll see it afresh. God is coming to us with grace upon grace. It’s grounded in Jesus and it’s unfolding all around us in the brokenness and beauty of our lives.
It is great to read about these kind of experiences of these students. However, this “thing” about God speaking to us through nature, coincidences, and others, is in my humble opinion no more than us “believing” that God has spoken to us. When in reality it is us interpreting and imposing whatever meaning it may be that comes to our mind. How can anyone say that, that was from God?
George thank you for your comment, and yes we recognize the danger you mention of “us interpreting and imposing whatever meaning it may be that comes to our mind” – you inspire me to think of the safeguards that are available to us as we seek to listen in an authentic way.