Recovering (From) Faith: When God Speaks

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There have been several times in my adult life when I firmly believed that God spoke to me. It’s hard to know what to do with those moments from where I stand now. I don’t want to retcon my past or just find ways of rationalizing things, although there are many. I know that when they happened, those things were really important to me, even sacred I suppose. There’s no way for me to move forward without acknowledging openly what happened in the past, perhaps especially when it makes me uncomfortable. There are really only two incidents that stand out super strongly in my memory, although I know that there were other times I felt things. These were more recent, in the last 2 years or so, and I felt like they were very important when they happened.

The first one was in church, during worship. I loved worship. Well, some of it anyway. Definitely there was some I wasn’t particularly fond of but for a long time we had a pastor who led worship who I was close to and I loved what he did with it. I love to sing and I liked being able to outwardly express something. I could talk about intellectual stuff all day long but worship tended to be one of the only times I actually felt like maybe I could be close to God. Music can be a powerful thing… but maybe that’s rationalizing. Either way. This was when I was still in contact with my parents and I was really struggling with that. Particularly with my father, I was feeling extremely hurt and hopeless about that relationship, I think just coming to realize that it wasn’t getting any better and might never get better. And so there I was, feeling sad and hopeless and sitting in church singing and suddenly I… well, I didn’t actually hear it. It wasn’t like a physical voice. But it was close, it was a strong sense in my mind of words, I guess. It was something along the lines of “Someday he’ll understand. It may not be in this lifetime but someday he’ll die and the next time you see him he’ll understand everything and he’ll love you like I always intended him to.” And I started crying.

What do I make of that now? A part of me is kind-of horrified, to be honest. The idea that the most comforting possibility for my relationship with my father is that someday he would die. That’s what I was left with. But I felt so much peace after that happened and I think it was me just letting go of the possibility of me fixing it. I don’t know what I think of the mystical element of that experience. I felt like something happened, I felt like I heard something, like it was specifically for me, like for a moment I wasn’t entirely with myself. And I can only tell you that having that happen changed something for me that day. It was one of several things that would ultimately allow me to put distance between myself and my parents. I can’t explain it more.

The second time was a bit more of an amorphous message, although it was also fairly impactful at the time. It was my first quarter of school, so actually less then a year ago. I was on a walk around the path by the college and I was thinking to myself as I tend to do. I was sort-of absently talking to God in my head about it while I was thinking, partly if I’m honest because it helps me to direct my thoughts to someone. I was thinking about how I had changed, how I had made this change from the very difficult and manipulative teenager to whatever I was becoming now. And as I was thinking about it, I once again felt that strange sensation and felt something so intense that I actually stopped in my tracks. I heard “That wasn’t the first time you changed.” Again, I didn’t hear it. I’ve never heard voices. But I felt it. And then I felt like my memory was being dragged back to when I was much younger, a much different and happier child. I felt like what I was being told was that there had been a much different plan for me originally. The angry, hurt teenager was what I had changed into, that was jumping off track. What was happening now was me going in the right direction. I didn’t actually cry but I was close.

And now? I don’t know. At the time, the feeling of validation was quite overwhelming. Now I can’t help but think that yeah, of course I would have been a different person if my parents had been different people, if I had been supported, if I hadn’t been hurt or assaulted or neglected growing up. But I have no idea who that person would have been. Maybe better, maybe worse, it’s honestly hard for me to say or even imagine. The idea of a plan seems irrelevant to me. But in that moment I felt like I could see something, like I was being given this moment of clarity on top of a peak, to see back over my life. It felt very beautiful and calming and also very invigorating. Now I see things very differently and I feel like I am more consistently inspired to move forward than I was then.

That’s one of the strange things. It wasn’t common for me to feel like I heard from God. There were smaller things, moments when scripture seemed to apply to me, certain books that seemed to really speak to me or whatever, times I had conversations with friends or watched a movie that I felt like hit me exactly where I was at. Those things happened and I believed that God used them if I was open to it but it was always a matter of waiting for them to come and it was a weirdly unfulfilling thing. I was never the super dedicated Christian that some people were. I never read my Bible every day for very long, I probably didn’t pray every single day or anything but I did talk to God pretty frequently and he so rarely talked back. It was so much a relationship of hoping to hear back, waiting for those occasional moments when maybe something would happen. And now I don’t and I feel so much more consistently good, so much more hopeful about the world and about what I want to do in it. I don’t feel like I’m waiting for permission, I guess, hoping that I’ll hear from him sooner rather than later. There are people I can talk to who I love and who love me who pretty much always respond. If I need to talk, I have people to talk to. It’s not the same as a mystical experience but as it turns out it’s much more satisfying.

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