A friend of mine recently was talking about his struggle to ‘hear’ from God. In the past, he had felt strongly that he had heard from God, but later events suggested that it wasn’t the voice of God.
It made me think about my own experience of communication with God. It’s pretty mysterious when you think about it, even for those of us who have grown up with families and communities around us where it is an assumed thing. It just seems impossible that an ultimate being such as God could be accessed with our ‘not-ultimate’ capacities. In addition to the many things we might say in response to this, such as the idea that God speaks through Christ, Scripture, Reason, Tradition, etc., there is another perspective on this dilemma, and it seems to my mind to cohere with both our experience and the Judeo-Christian scriptures. It’s the idea that God ‘meets’ us at our level of ability to communicate.
If this is true, then God may well be communicating to animals, plants, rocks, stars and the rest of created reality in a way that is appropriate to them. Scripture seems to speak of these kinds of creaturely responses to the Creator. With us, though, God seems to limit himself to the level of sounding like another human.
If we put aside, for the moment, the question of conversing with, speaking to and hearing from, God, we might observe the imprecise and imperfect, yet still wonderful and functional way that we communicate with one another as humans. More often than we probably do it, we need to clarify or make sure we’ve been listening correctly. We sometimes are mistaken about what people have said, sometimes we miss a tree from the forest, other times we miss the whole forest. Shannon and Weaver’s theory of communication suggests that various kinds of ‘noise’ can distort the encoding, transmission, and decoding of our messages.
Wouldn’t human-divine communication be naturally subject to the same beautiful realities that make communication relational? In the same way that God has not made us as robotic computers, executing every command with perfect precision, God, it seems, has chosen not to relate to us as a computer, but in a wonderfully down-to-earth, personal and even human way.
Now that this little piece of thinking is done, I think I shall get back to the lovely simplicity of approaching God as a child would their parent. “I love you God, help me do good today.”