Meeting last week was so good. As people delivered their messages about prayer and light, I found myself deeply and restoratively in a prayerful state. And I found it. I found that place within me that I could hear that still, small voice. I don't know what I was expecting, but it surprised me--it was so clear. It actually sounded like a little child, and it addressed me by name: "Stephen, come to me."
When I have a message that needs to be delivered, my body reacts strongly. The message presses into me from within, my heart starts pounding, I shudder and grow cold, and my head grows light and floaty and swirly. Last week, that happened when I had something to say about the light of God. But the child's voice I'd heard wasn't in it. My body trembled and my head grew faint, but the voice wasn't there. I remained seated.
Tonight, I have another meeting of the newly-formed Young Adult Friends group for Providence. Last Monday night was our first real meeting, and there were five of us, gathered over tea, tortilla chips, flatbread, and homemade hummous and pico de gallo. We decided to do a little bible study, so we opened up to a psalm and read it aloud. I mentioned that I sometimes had trouble reconciling the language of "enemies" in the psalms with Jesus' exhortation to love our enemies. I wondered what everyone thought. People shared their thoughts, and they mostly made some sense to me. Then, suddenly, I came upon a revelation: it all seemed so clear. But as I opened my mouth to speak, Hannah's cell phone rang. It was her father, so she answered it, briefly. After she hung up, I didn't say anything. But Elizabeth had noticed my "revelation face," and invited me to say what I was going to say. I couldn't.
I believe that seemingly random things happen for a reason. During the phone call, I realized that I had done to the scriptures what I usually do as a grad student: I had intellectualized them into obedience to my will. My "revelation" was an intellectual epiphany. The spirit wasn't in it. So I shut my mouth and let the silence of waiting enfold us all again. I've done bible studies many, many times in my life, especially during my high school days in a Presbyterian youth group. But this was the first time I realized how much God can and should be present in them. In the past, they've all been intellectual exercises, in which we talked about God. I realized that we can actually experience God directly when we communally wait upon the scriptures just like we wait upon him.
We didn't come to any glorious revelations about the psalm that night, but that was okay. We just sat with it, and we found ourselves in a prayerful state that was sweeter than anything we could have done to wrangle that thing into making sense.