Nearly 20 years ago I was speeding south on Denver’s I-25 terrified of being late.
My side-gig job as public address announcer for the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche required me to be on time. Pro sports wait for no one, and those guys fire anonymous characters like me for the slightest transgression.
That particular night, I changed into my “business casual attire” and hurried out the door. I timed the drive to Denver’s Pepsi Center (now Ball Arena) to the exact minute.
But I had a nagging feeling I was forgetting something. As I sped along, I noticed the gas pedal of my Subaru Outback felt different, more contoured, closer. And I realized what I forgot:
I had no freaking shoes on. Just socks.
Could I announce the game with no shoes? Would they let me in? Is the Pepsi Center “No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service”? What about for announcers? How dumb would I look? Would they fire me if I showed up with no shoes? Would they fire me if I was late because I was buying shoes?
I imagined the conversation with my boss, “So, yeah, I didn’t have any shoes so I had to stop and buy some. Sorry about being late for the Lakers game.”
I had 15 minutes. No chance to go home. That would add 40 minutes from my location. I exited the freeway praying for… you guessed it… a shoe store. This is pre-iPhone.
I’ve never been more elated (nor will I ever again) to see the “Famous Footwear” sign. I rushed into the store and found a surprised salesman.
“Hi. I need a size 10.5,” I said urgently.
“What are you looking for?” the salesman said.
We both looked down at my stocking feet.
“I need shoes,” I replied. This clearly had not happened to him before.
I looked at the display and grabbed the closest pair for $70.
“I’ll take these,” I said. “Fast. Please.”
“OK,” he said. His eyes widened and a smirk formed as he turned to find a 10.5 from the back.
Within minutes I was back on the road. Somehow, I arrived moments before my mic went hot.
Forgetting More Than Shoes
Shoes aren’t the only thing I forget.
I often go about my day doing things - eating, shoveling snow, driving, emailing, budgeting, reading the news, doing dishes, talking on zoom, checking off my todo list, watching WandaVision, checking the mail, casting for trout, forgetting my passwords, cursing myself for not writing them down, clicking ‘Buy Now’ on Amazon… I do a lot. In fact, I’m quite good at doing. I established that skill as a teenager trying to impress colleges with my grades.
But I forget hearing. Hearing is what I leave behind in my rush to perform.
Hearing God speak often doesn’t make our todo list.
Because it doesn’t help us win awards. Or influence our annual performance review. Hearing God is not efficient. It’s incongruent to the shape of our world. Hearing often feels too passive. In a world of project deadlines and Facebook posts, sitting quietly, asking God to speak, feels odd and even irresponsible. It doesn’t drive fast results. It seems like the luxury of religious professionals or radicals.
And yet we long to hear God speak.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else,” Jesus says (John 10:27-29).
I want those words to be about me. Take the words “My sheep” and replace them with your name. Can you imagine?
Apparently, Jesus is still speaking. To me. To you. Busy, preoccupied, stubborn, suspicious sheep. Worthy of God’s voice.
Are you listening to the voice of Jesus, or speeding down the highway of life with no shoes on?
“I’ve never seen God do anything,” the teenage boy told me. “And I’ve been praying since I was little.”
I love this honesty. Can you relate?
If God is truly relational with his people, and Jesus is still speaking, wouldn’t clear and frequent communication be healthy?
“Can you imagine what a personal relationship would be like with someone who never spoke to you?” theologian Dallas Willard says in The Allure of Gentleness.
But that's exactly how it often feels with God. Silence. So… God... Why don’t you just speak LOUD and CLEAR?
I often grow tired of the divine Hide ‘n Seek game.
Loud and Clear vs. The Whisper
If you’ve ever been frustrated by God’s seemingly quiet ways, consider this:
Loud and Clear is how we treat toddlers. We dominate them with our strength. There are many reasons we force them to do as we wish. God has that option with us, but chooses not to exercise it. Why? If he was Loud and Clear wouldn’t life be more simple? Yes. And terrible. Robotic, really. A Loud and Clear God would dominate us.
Loud and Clear means saying “Goodbye” to your own will. Saying goodbye to your will means saying goodbye to love, because love is always a function of choice. Perhaps God’s most fiercely guarded value is his allowance of your ability to decide. Freedom to choose has a direct correlation to love that is frequently underestimated.
I’ll go as far to say: Be a little wary of Loud and Clear People. “God told me…” is an important thing to claim at times. In fact, I hope over the next few weeks to discover with you in these posts how we can say those words with confidence. But I know Loud and Clear People who seemingly say those words every five minutes. Even Moses and Paul would be jealous, if not a touch suspicious.
Because God likes to whisper. That’s love, not dominance. And listening to a whisper requires effort. It means leaning in. Yes. Listening to a Whispering God forces us to slow down enough to be certain our shoes are firmly on our feet and nudges us to even tie the laces.
As we head toward Easter, here’s an invitation: embrace listening.
Believe you can hear.
Believe he’s still speaking.
Believe you are worth his attention.
Be a sheep who longs to hear his voice.
Come with me the next few weeks to explore how our ears work.
Let’s put our shoes on together.
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Jim Candy is the US Central Regional Director for Stadia, a global church planting organization dedicated to see the next generation have a church they love.