Friday, May 18, 2018

"But what if you can't hear God's answer?"

Last night, I was putting my 8-year-old to bed when she stopped me in my tracks with her questions. She was nearly naked, wearing only her underwear, her typical bedtime attire, that and an oversized square of stretchy cotton fabric that she sometimes wraps around herself. I was on night one of three of single parenting, my husband deep in the bowels of Canada, attending a men’s retreat with our church.

We’d swapped the dinner hour that evening for T-ball practice (a concept I have yet to wrap my mind around now that I am parenting olders) which is why we found ourselves “eating out” at the Costco Food Court at 7:45 PM. We had come just to buy fruit but somehow, I’d succumbed to $170 of other “essentials” that my assistants had deposited in our cart, as is prone to happen every time we visit the place. These essentials included swimwear (for the girls), dresses for a wedding we are attending TOMORROW (also for the girls - nothing like 11th hour shopping) and wine (for mama). Of course, we couldn’t try on any of the clothing there, so I was 97% positive the items would be deemed unacceptable for my eldest, who struggles with sensory challenges, upon our arrival home. Even when able to try things on before buying, 80% of them end up returned or unworn so I’ve gotten used to this routine. I was confident the dress she’d selected would be rejected as soon as it touched her body, but I bought it anyway and prayed this would be the time I would be proven wrong.

Not so.

She’d slipped into the dress a mere seconds after we walked through our door; I knew it was a no-go when I heard the sobs coming down the stairs before I’d even finished putting away our purchases. It looked adorable on her, a soft cotton number with narrow black and white stripes, cut shorter in the front with a small train in the back. She had wanted so badly for it to work but the little triangle of lace detail in the bodice was more than she could handle.

I went upstairs and assessed the situation, offered comfort and helped her transition to bed. It was getting late and we’d agreed that she had some other dress options she could wear to the wedding. I was about to leave her room after tucking her into bed when she let her frustration show. “Mom, why do I have to have sensory issues? I just want to be normal! Why does it have to be so hard to wear clothes?”

Her discouragement was palpable, and I didn’t have a great answer for her. I began rambling on about how there is really no such thing as “normal,” how we all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies that make us unique. But she wasn’t buying it. So, I stopped for a minute to gather my thoughts before I went on.

“Well,” I told her. “Those seem like good questions to ask God. He wants to know how we are feeling and it’s okay to ask him why.”

I was feeling proud of my diplomatic and spiritual answer when she fired back at me, her frustrated tone now rising, But what if you can’t hear God’s answer?”


Her words hung in the air, poignant and personal, the very question with which I had been wrestling. Dang.

She stared out her bedroom window while my mind raced, searching for an answer that would satisfy her and I alike. I started talking, hoping something good would come out if I just began moving my lips. I shared with her that I often wonder the same thing – how do we really hear God? I told her that, though I’d often wished I could, I had never heard his voice audibly. Then I told her about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives as believers, how he moves within us and can bring thoughts and words to our mind. I told her that it’s sometimes through these thoughts and words that we “hear” from God, provided we can be quiet and still long enough to listen. Then I reminded her how we have the Bible, God’s written words to us, His promises.

Her lips cracked into a tiny smile. I could tell she’d never really thought of the Bible as God’s way of speaking to us in the present before. I saw her frustration dissipate as I told her that she is “fearfully and wonderfully made” and that God “knit her together” in my womb. We talked about how much work knitting is and how it takes great intentionality. I reminded her that God doesn’t make mistakes and I think what I saw was a flicker of hope flashing across her face.

“What would happen if everything about us was perfect?” I asked.

She looked at me, puzzled, so I went on.

“If we didn’t face struggles and challenges, do you think we would remember to turn to God and ask for help?”

I could tell she was starting to follow my line of thought.

“As painful as it can be,” I told her, “sometimes it’s these very struggles that remind us of how much we need God.”

She had settled into her pillow and I could see her body visibly relaxing as she pondered what I had said. I prayed over her and kissed her goodnight and left her room. 

With each tidbit I had shared, I felt a small internal sting. I was saying all the "right" things but each one I uttered left me twinging with a tiny string of doubt. I gave her my head knowledge, but what is it that I actually believed in my heart? 

As I reflect on all the words that came out of my mouth last night, I realize how easy it was to tell my daughter that we don’t often receive the direct answers we long for. It was simple and straight forward to tell her to read the Bible and pray and listen. That her struggles were intended to work as a means of drawing her back to God. The words rolled off my tongue, but now I am pressed with the challenge: can I let them be true for me as well? Can I sit in my own current season where my list of questions for God feels endless, and claim His goodness? Can I be okay with persisting alongside my struggles as a means of keeping me mindful of my need for Him? I may have sounded confident and convincing last night, but the reality is that I was preaching to the choir. I, too, wonder what happens if I can't hear God's answer. What do I do when I ask and all I hear is silence?

We may not always get to “hear” an answer from God in the way we hope. In the seasons where God feels distant and silent, I pray we continue to ask and seek. I believe we are to continually bring everything before Him and wrestle in His presence. Because it’s in this simple act of coming before Him that we are reminded of our greatest need - our need for a Savior.

I still struggle immensely in the "silence." How can a God who loves me not answer immediately in a way that is audible and clear? But what He is teaching me is that if we never ask, how can we expect an answer? I have seen Him more clearly in my wrestling of late than in all the times where I presented myself as buttoned up and A-okay from the outside. 

So, don't be afraid to ask. He can handle the doubt. And don't let the fear of silence stop you. He will meet you where you are, in the most unexpected and gracious of ways. 

Our God is good this is the truth I'm choosing to cling to today.

1 comment:

posted by kelsie