It was our first invite to dinner as a newly engaged couple. When we arrived at their home the wife of this couple was noticeably frazzled. Upon asking her how she was doing she said her day was unexpectedly busy. In addition to preparing things for our dinner tonight, she said God told her to make a pot of soup for her neighbor who had been sick.
My initial thought was, “God told you to make your neighbor soup?!”
I had grown up in fairly conservative church circles and had come to believe that God only revealed himself in the pages of Scripture and that it was dangerous to believe otherwise. I realize making a pot of soup for a sick neighbor in the “name of God” isn’t dangerous, it’s actually quite biblical. But to say, “God told me to do it…,” that’s just a bit silly.
* * *
On our street lives a widow with a grown daughter who still lives at home due to a development disability. A few month back while walking my dog, I had this weird sense that I should go visit her. I had never given her more than a neighborly wave as she drove by in her car, so why in the world would I go visit her? For months on end the same thought entered my mind and every time pushed it aside.
Walking passed her house one day while coming back from a run, I noticed her front door was open. I have no idea why, but as I passed her driveway I turned in. I went up to her screen door and knocked; she answered and I introduced myself. She said, “Oh you’re the young man with the dog and the two young girls.” I said I was and we then spent the next 30 minutes talking. I came to learn that she has lived in our neighborhood, in the same home, for over 50 years. We talked about her family, the passing of her husband and one of her sons, how the neighborhood has drastically changed over the years and about all the people who used to live around her.
As our conversation came to a close she invited me to come back. She said she missed these sorts of visits with neighbors and next time we would go inside for coffee and cake. She also said I was welcome to bring my family.
After our conversation, I began to wonder whether or not it was God telling me to visit her. Nothing miraculous or divine happened during our visit. She isn’t in great need. Her health is good for someone her age. She manages fine with her disabled daughter and seems to have plenty of resources. But then I began to think…
What if the visit wasn’t for her, but for me?
What if my sense actually was from God?
What if the point of the visit was to train and teach me how to hear and discern God’s voice in my life?
* * *
Over the last few years my conservative God-only-speaks-to-us-in-the-pages-of-Scripture view has been challenged and is being reshaped. Not that I no longer believe God speaks through Scripture, if anything that’s been strengthened and reinforced. But I’m also learning God does speak to us through his Spirit. For longest time I resisted listening to God through His Spirit because there’s the potential to be wrong.
Recently I heard a story about a young man who believed God was telling him to go to a specific street corner in his town and share the Gospel with someone who would arrive in a red car. He went and waited for four hours in the pouring rain. No one came and he was left soaking wet and cold. His conclusion was that he heard wrong.
The way we grow in hearing from God’s Spirit is by stepping out in obedience to the things we believe God is calling us to do. As we put this into practice sometimes we’ll get it right, other times we’ll get it wrong.
A good friend of mine once told me, misguided obedience is better than no obedience. It’s better to step out in obedience when we believe we’ve heard from the Lord and get it wrong, than to never step out at all. This is how we grow in our ability to discern what is from God and what isn’t.
Whether my sense of visiting my neighbor was or wasn’t from God, whether or not the Lord actually told our dinner host to make her neighbor soup, either way as Jesus says in John 5, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.”
So the question is, are we open to the possibility that God does speaks to us through His Spirit? Are we diligently seeking to discern His voice? Do we have the courage to step out in faith even though we might be wrong?
And even if we are wrong, an extra pot of soup and a visit with a neighbor isn’t that bad of a mistake to make.
1. How do you find that God speaks to you through His Spirit?
2. Where have you identified Him working in your life in the last few weeks?