Those of you who read the introductory piece I did a couple of months back when I first started out here, know that I am currently a college student. I had a dream of becoming a teacher; by a crazy chain of events I wound up studying accounting.
A few weeks back somebody at church asked me what I was doing. I said I was studying accounting. He then said, “So you feel that the Lord is leading you to study accounting?”
My reaction to this was interesting. At first I wanted to punch this guy in the face. (I wisely restrained myself; punching someone in the face at a church meeting is not a good thing to do.) Because it frustrates me to no end that evangelicals feel they have to justify everything they do in terms of “The Lord led me to do this.” I can’t even get out of bed and put my clothes on without having to justify myself by saying “I felt the Lord leading me to get out of bed and put my clothes on today”!!!!!
I guess that perhaps in an ultimate, cosmic sense I could say that God is leading me to study accounting. After all, I have bills that need to be paid, and accounting will certainly generate enough revenue to pay the bills. I am reasonably good with numbers, and able to keep track of what goes where on all the various and sundry financial statements. So it makes sense that I would pursue a career in accounting; I have gifts in that area and I would do well to use those gifts to generate a living in a way that honors God.
So why do I say all this?
There has been a good little discussion over at internetmonk.com this week about hearing from God. It started with this post from Jeff Dunn, and it continues with this response to a comment on the first post. There may still be more to come.
Where do I come down on all of this?
On the one hand, phrases such as “I heard from God…” or “The Lord told me to…” or “I feel the Lord leading me to…” are WAY overused in evangelical Protestant-dom. Frequently they are used to claim divine justification when no divine justification is necessary. Can’t I get in my car and drive to school today without having to feel that God led me to get in my car and drive to school? No, we have to have divine justification and divine sanction for everything we do. Because when we do, we can feel superior because we are truly surrendered to God and we know that God will bless that. It is not enough to simply follow God; we must go all out to show ourselves and the world how much we are following God.
And as if that isn’t bad enough, these phrases are also frequently used to say that God has said something which he, in all probability, has really not said. If you have a good feeling about something, that’s more than enough to be able to say that the Lord is leading you. Never mind that the thing you claim God is leading you to do is something which God, in all probability, would never lead anyone to do.
There are some people running around out there who really do hear from God. People who have a unique vision and a unique calling to wrap their lives around, who have the sense of having received something special directly from God and know that God has said something unique directly to them–and are doing what they believe they have heard and received from God.
I resonate with the commenter at internetmonk.com who said:
I wish I knew God like you do….Could hear His voice. I feel like an Israelite, sitting in the camp, waiting for the truly spiritual to go up the mountain, meet with God, then come back and tell me about Him.
But I want to go…I want to hear Him speak to me. And I have no idea how.
I resonate with this because it has been my experience. In the absence of direct words from God, my modus operandi has been, in the words of St. Augustine, “Love God, then do as you please.” I know things that I am good at, and I order my life around those things. If I have a major life decision to make, or any other decision for that matter, I simply weigh the alternatives based on what makes the most sense for me in light of who I am, what I am good at, and what I want in life, and then choose the alternative which is most appropriate for me. It is a sensible way to go, and I trust that in the end God will be honored by the life I have led in this fashion.
But at the same time, I wish I could hear from God. I would love to know that I have some unique vision or calling from God, something inside of me that I could know is directly from God and uniquely for me.