The Lord, the God of their ancestors , sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words, and scoffing at this prophets, until the wrath of Lord against his people became so great that there was no remedy. (2 Chron. 36:16-16, NRSV)
I reflected on the persistent disregard the king's of Israel had toward God's personal communication. My response is not uncommon, "How can people who have so many clear interventions from God so completely miss God's attempt to communicate?"
My ruminations about transition emerge from the context of my own experience. There have recently been times were I felt at the end of my most important contribution. Oddly, opportunities for which I am amply qualified have closed in front of me. Ageism? Perhaps. Diversity goals? Perhaps. Cost reduction? Perhaps. The reasons were insignificant compared to the questions I face at this stage in life. I am part of the Boomer generation and I look forward to the convergence of experience, learning, and opportunity. Yet, I sometimes feel convergence slipping from my grasp. Fear assails my thoughts, resignation like a mental rigor-mortise has tried to rob my creativity and resilience.
In the midst of these fairly common emotions I am reminded to embrace yet another metamorphosis as I learn to apply my knowledge and experience in new ways. Reading the historical lessons of Chronicles has been encouraging - a reminder that God is not silent and that the shaping of destiny and purpose continues through a life time. Decisions made today are as significant as decisions made a decade ago spiritually. Look at faithful men and women in Chronicles who live an entire life of faithful and powerful relationship with God who then fail to finish well in the end through hubris or some other arrogance that leads to a wreckage of faith and not a flourishing of faith.
Hence my rumination, "How can people who have so many clear interventions from God so completely miss God's attempts at communicating?" And hence, my commitment to remain attentive to that still small voice of God - God's communication that is clear in the scriptures read and reflected upon or in those intuitive thoughts that emerge from prayer that bear the stamp of God's own voice.
I went about my day and was preparing to leave my office and run some errands when I heard a knock at the door. A young man in a lime green logo shirt with iPad in hand was conducting an energy survey to find out who in our neighborhood qualifies for alternative energy projects. Janice and I have already explored these alternatives so I was closing the conversation when the young man surprised me with a request, "May I pray for you?" he said.
"Sure, what congregation are you a part of?" I asked.
He told me, we prayed and then he looked at me and said, "A man your age sometimes thinks their time of fruitfulness is over. Your greatest time of fruitfulness is about to begin. God has you in this time of transition not to forsake you but to complete the equipping and preparation you need for what is next. The end of your life will see the greatest of God's work in scope and in impact. You have been faithful in little, God will make you faithful over much more."
He said several others things too personal to share in this format that spoke to the deepest parts of my being.
Ok, that was different. Some might even say it was weird.
After he left, I considered my reflection about the kings of Israel and their response to the prophets. I am separated from their experience by thousands of years and yet the God of Abraham still speaks to me like the God I read about in the Bible. I remembered something Dallas Willard once wrote:
In the last analysis nothing is more central to the practical life of the Christian than confidence in God's individual dealings with each person. The individual care of the shepherd for his sheep, of the parent for the child and of the lover for the beloved are all biblical images that have passed into the fundamental consciousness of Western humanity....The biblical record always presents the relationship between God and the believer as more like a friendship or family tie than like merely one person's arranging to take care of the needs of another.(1)
I take the young prophet's words to heart. I listen for the voice of God who is also my friend.
In case some wonder; I am not lost in the pursuit of the next episodic thrill of existential phenomenon. I am attentive to what God says in the scriptures, in prayer, and through the voices of others. I have specific goals and I work toward the convergence I want to see also recognizing that opportunities I have not thought of may well land in my lap as a result of the guidance and grace of God.
Is it a surprise that the prophetic (a gift of the Holy Spirit according to 1 Corinthians 12-14) still finds expression through and in the church? Not at all. This is the promise of God at work to guide, restore, heal, comfort, and develop God's people. Are you listening for the voice of God? What do you do with what God has said or is saying now? How do you test the validity of what you hear to decide its reliability? If you are a follower of God through faith in Jesus Christ then be ready to see God act today just like you see God acting in history.
If you are not familiar with God acting in this way then contact me, I am happy to talk with you. Or, pray, ask God to show God's self to you in a way you can't miss. Walk the journey of faith with expectation, hope, and joy; one greater than you walks with you.
(1) Dallas Willard. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 22-23.