At three-years-old, my son is a movie theater pro.
He knows how this whole movie-watching thing goes.
“I get glasses.” (We’ve seen some 3D movies lately).
“I get popcorn.” (We love movie theater popcorn!!)
“I sit in the big chair and be quiet and watch the movie.”
Yes, sir. That’s how it works all right.
Only this time we weren’t going to see a 3D movie, so we messed with his routine a little.
No special funky glasses to play with during the movie?
Surely the 3D glasses are an intrinsic part of the movie experience!
Fortunately, we arrived at the movie theater and he didn’t protest when we headed into the dark theater sans glasses. He just happily munched on his popcorn.
My son went with the flow in a way I kind of envy because going with the flow is the hard thing for me. I like things to be just so, the way they always are, the way I expect them to be.
But life and faith aren’t always so simple.
Sometimes you get the popcorn but not the glasses. Or the glasses and not the popcorn. Sometimes you sit in a movie theater with all the movie paraphernalia, but nothing shows on the screen.
Sometimes I follow five-step formulas of faith and don’t hear from God or fulfill every religious obligation and still feel spiritually dehydrated and dying of thirst.
That’s because faith is relational and relationships can be messy and hard to define. They can’t always be crammed into facts, figures, and formulas.
Relationships take effort because they are dynamic and changing, close and then distant and then close again…and my relationship with God is the same.
Jeremiah 29:13 tells us:
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
What does it look like to seek God with all my heart instead of just half my attention or a little of my focus?
It means I’m willing to wait and willing to listen.
I’m willing to be honest and tell God where I’ve gone wrong, how I’m hurting, and the places where I’m clinging to unsurrendered disappointment.
I feast on His Word and rest in His presence because just being near Him helps.
It means waking up in the middle of the night and hashing it out with Him in a heart-to-heart instead of counting sheep.
Maybe God purposely keeps us on our toes so we’re drawn into this wholehearted search for Him because He knows we’re distracted.
When Elijah ran in desperate fear from Queen Jezebel, he ended up at Mount Horeb–the very same holy mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
Elijah sojourned to the”mountain of God” to have his own personal God-encounter.
There in that sacred space, he witnessed an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake.
He saw fire, but God wasn’t in the fire.
Instead, God showed up “in the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12 ESV).
There’s more to this than just the superficial lesson that “God speaks in a still small voice so be quiet enough to listen.”
Sure, that’s often true.
Life can be loud, far too loud for us to reflect, think, listen, or pray with reflection.
But that’s not all there is here.
God didn’t speak to Elijah from a storm or earthquake. Truth.
But He did speak to Job that way.
Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm. Job 38:1 NIV
And no, God didn’t speak to Elijah from the fire, but He did to Moses.
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush (Exodus 3:2 ESV).
God whispers sometimes and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes He speaks in storms or from the midst of the flame.
All through Scripture, we see this isn’t about methods or venues; it’s about God speaking however He chooses to speak.
If I’m not hearing Him, I can throw my whole heart into listening, allowing Him to speak how He chooses instead of expecting Him to stick to my relational plan. To show up on my timetable. To discuss what I want to discuss. To answer the way I’d like.
Maybe this time I need to watch the movie without the glasses.
Maybe another day I’ll need to wear the glasses to see the whole picture.
It’s not always the same. So I let Him lead in this relational dance.
And I hold on to one beautiful promise:
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 ESV
When we draw near, we must believe that God does indeed reward the wholehearted seeker.
I just keep seeking.