Lately, we’ve been trying some new things in during our worship response segment of Sunday Mornings. I give credit where it is due, because I was given the ideas for this segment by the great Children’s Ministry team at Savannah Christian Church. Anyway, the idea is that every Sunday morning, we give the children an opportunity to respond to God in a unique way in order to grow their repertoire of ways to worship.
We have done a wide array of responses, from writing prayers, to kneeling and prostration, to echoing prayers, to breath prayer, to repeating a Psalm. I will tell you, I was skeptical of kids’ ability to connect in these ways, but they have completely taken to these responses and have surprised me again and again.
I think my favorite response so far has been sitting in silence and listening for God. Yes, you heard that correctly. I asked kids Kindergarten through 4th grade to sit in silence and listen for God. And you know what? They did. They found a spot in the room away from everyone else and sat in silence. (Sure, I only scheduled 30 seconds of silence, but to a kid that can be an eternity.) The trick is explaining listening for God. What will he say? What will the experience be like? Will it be a Mt. Sinai with booming thunder shaking the ground? What happens if we don’t hear anything.
No, really, what happens if we don’t hear anything? If you pressed me, I could probably count on my hands the number of times I’ve “heard a message from God” in nearly 27 years. Was it clear – yes? Was it some mind-numbing experience that left me a hollowed husk blasted by the glory of God? Not really. God called me into ministry using the strong, humorous, and genuine voice of my mentor Keith Buddemeyer during a closing talk at a youth convention, God clarified that call through a book called Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions by George Barna, and, on a slightly unrelated note, God called my bluff when I applied to teach English in China for a month. Otherwise, I do not have a list of direct messages that some people seem to receive.
And in some ways, I do get a little jealous of those believers who do seem to hear from God on a regular basis. And that might cause me to be a little skeptical when it comes to hearing from God. That is my problem, but we are called to be discerning that no message contradicts God’s character.
Silence may be part of the problem. We are so busy. We rarely take time to just be in God’s presence – to invite Him to sit with us. Yes, I have gone over the fact that God is the great King of the Universe, but He is also a father. And this father enjoys spending time with his kids. I explain it to my children this way: sometimes God wants us to sit on the couch with them and just be, like we do with our parents sometimes. We don’t have to talk, or ask questions, we can just enjoy the comfortable silence with someone we love.
We give married people a hard time about not talking in restaurants, but sometimes that can be a sign of deep love and ease. You can tell a lot about your relationship with someone by how long a silence can last while still being comfortable. No really, try it.
So, I guess, much like Elijah after Mt. Carmel, maybe I may not need a message from God other than, “Be still and know that I am God.” Maybe searching and straining and shouting for an answer should give way to stopping, stilling, and listening. Maybe my ears aren’t stopped up. Maybe God just wants some time on the couch.
When have you heard from God? Think about where you were and what you were going through. When was the last time you took time to be? What might you need to set aside for a time to make room for silence with God? What ways of listening and responding to God does your family practice? How does that response help your family to be more apt to listen for God’s direction?