No matter how we experience the divine dialogue, we are experiencing The Holy Spirit. The two experiences are indivisibly the same. When the Spirit of God moves on you, in you or around you, to whatever end or by whatever means, you are being informed from the depths of God Himself.
In past postings, I’ve made brief passes over the divine dialogue:
- Describing the phenomenon of God speaking into our life,
- Striving to reveal the mind and heart of the Person reaching out to us, so that we do not dismiss His voice as coincidence, intuition, or psychic ability.
- Considering His purpose for interacting with us—that we might know and believe Him.
Today I am going to tell a story revealing the provision that God has put into place so that we can hear and understand what He has to say to us.
God’s provision begins with His Spirit. His Spirit bears His thoughts and words to us like radio waves transmit a signal, or light waves convey energy from the sun to earth through space. The Spirit springs from God, conveying His thoughts to us; but The Spirit also embodies God’s thought in our mind. The voice we hear, the word that comes, it is God with us, embodied in the very message He sends.
Scripture is another of God’s provisions making the divine dialogue possible, but it is The Spirit who brings us The Word of God. He matches our specific circumstance with a specific Scripture, fitting them together like a lock with its key. Watch, in my story, for how The Spirit matches a specific Scripture to a moment’s need, making it possible for me to flow into His lead.
The divine dialogue is how we experience The Spirit of God moving on us, in the way that He would have us move with Him.
And now, the story:
Darkness Upon the Face of God
Every morning our very young son waited alone at the bottom of our street for his yellow bus to take him to his 2nd grade class. All of the kids on the street would shout and wave, honking as their car pools left him behind, headed to their private schools. We were fine with this, but Matt secretly longed to go with his friends.
Early one cold January morning, I approached the light at the intersection of Northside Parkway and West Paces Ferry Road on my way home. From out of nowhere the clear directive broke into my thoughts, “Drive into Westminster and go to the office of admissions.” I was right there, so I obeyed, even though it far exceeded any of Bill’s and my current plans for our children’s education. True, Matt, our oldest, was not getting the challenge we had hoped for in the local elementary school. And Christi’s kindergarten teacher had strongly suggested we apply her to one of the private schools.
The Westminster Schools of Atlanta offered a fabulous education, but as a young couple new to Atlanta, having few connections, Bill and I having both grown up as public school kids—applying our children to this school had not ever crossed our minds. We were strangers to the complex application process, and I felt more than a little intimidated as I drove through the gate wondering what I was doing.
Smiling patiently at me from behind her desk, the lady in the admissions office explained that the new application forms would not be ready until November.
“But I want to apply our two children for this fall,” I explained, feeling a little embarrassed as I realized how far behind we were.
The lady was clearly rattled by my being so totally out of step with the process, but graciously rising from her chair she dug out two remaining forms from deep in a pile behind her. Passing them over her desk to me, I felt her strong reservation as she tried to prepare me for disappointment, cautioning me that that this late in the process it was just about impossible to make the strict deadlines. I listened respectfully nodding in affirmation, but as I walked back to my car I silently reminded myself, “but God told me to.”
She was right—the interviews, psychological evaluations, recommendations, and forms needing to be filled out were all due in days. Professional evaluations? I didn’t know where to start; but as I scanned the list of suggested specialists, one name jumped out. I didn’t know this doctor, but her telephone number leapt off the page. Calling, I left a message on her answering machine, telling her that I needed two appointments for my children as soon as possible. Within an hour she returned my call, telling me that she was scheduled to speak downtown that afternoon, but the meeting had been canceled—she had two hours—if I could get them to her right away.
As I waited with all four of my children in her reception area, I chatted with the other mother, whose child was undergoing evaluation behind the closed door. She rolled her eyes recounting how hard it was to get this appointment, how even last November, this doctor’s schedule had filled fast. I kept my experience to myself, overwhelmed with the sense of being led, provided for, and cared for.
A few moments later the psychologist opened her door, her hand cradling the scalp of the little boy to whom she was saying good-bye. Then turning to us, smiling brightly, she addressed my children, “Matthew, Christi, which of you wants to come in first, to play some games with me?” Matt tentatively slipped off of the sofa, looking back at me for affirmation as he went forward. Five-year-old Christi bounced on the couch beside me happy and free.
When it was over, I inwardly celebrated one task knocked off the list.
The next morning, as I attended a women’s Bible Study, the teacher read a verse from the book of Isaiah, which I didn’t know; but the moment I heard it, its personal fit to our situation ricocheted off the walls of my heart in soft explosions—
I will place the key to the house of David on his shoulder. When he opens the door, no one can close it; when he closes the door, no one can open it.
Isaiah was describing a Servant who was to come, who would act with authority and power on behalf of his people. A man named Eliakim, would take that role a few years later; but Isaiah was also prophesying of that servant who would not come for centuries, Yeshua, Jesus, who would be given the authority to close and open doors that no man could restrain.
Anxious about completing the admissions process properly, this verse fit the lock of my circumstances like a key. If the Lord was going to open the door for my children into Westminster, no man would shut it; and if He shut the door, no man was going to open it. My anxiety dissolved, and my heart sang. Obviously, with all of the effort and timing that God had put into this project, He was opening the door. And that night at dinner, I told my children what had happened, and what God was saying to us.
Winter melted into spring, and the week arrived when Atlanta’s private schools sent their letters of acceptance and rejection to the many families awaiting word. I checked the mailbox every day, nothing. On Saturday I took everyone to Matt’s t-ball game and then came home for lunch. Leaving the kids at the kitchen table, I went out to check the mailbox once again.
I found two letters from Westminster. One envelope was thick. One was thin. I knew what this meant, but I was incredulous. My heart pounding, my throat tight, my fingers not working, my eyes stinging, I opened the thin envelope. They appreciated our application on Matt’s behalf, but there wasn’t room for him. The thick envelope warmly enthusiastically welcomed Christi, asking that we fill out all the forms so that she could be enrolled in the rising 1st grade. Christi didn’t care where she went to school. Matt did…. I didn’t have the strength or composure to go back inside. I needed a few moments. Walking in circles around the cul-de-sac, I fumed. I was outraged at Westminster, and yes, at God.
“How could they accept one child and not the other? How dare they be so cruel to treat one sibling differently than the other! There is no way on God’s green earth that I’m going to put up with this!!! If they don’t want both of my children, then they’re not going to have either.” Turning on my heel, I strode back toward the house in a heat of rage and hurt; but before I even reached the bottom of our driveway The Spirit brought back the same verse He had given me months before—Isaiah 22:22.
What door he opens, no man can close; what door he closes, no man can open. Not even you, Valerie . . .
Like the key to a lock
He brought me the scripture
That opened the way for me to understand
Instantaneously I realized with deep humiliation that this was God, and what a poor mother I was—so ready to sacrifice Christi’s good for the sake of my wounded pride, unable to celebrate for her because I was so upset for her brother. I understood clearly that I was to submit and not interfere. But this didn’t make it easy.
Taking Matt gently aside I told him first. He threw himself on his bed, all sweaty from t-ball in his dirty little red and white uniform, shredding my heart as his little body convulsed with sobbing, “Why did God close the door on me?”
He was suffering not just Westminster’s rejection, but in his mind, God’s—because of the cock-sure way that I had mishandled and misinterpreted God’s leading. Leaders in the church, hear me!
We bare responsibility for every false expectation held by those in our care—when they believe our wrong presumptions about what God is or is not going to do.
There is a real danger in making false assumptions, and heart-break, when we substitute our religious expectations for the bold but unanticipated risks that God may be willing to take.
When I told Christi, I drew her up into my lap, telling her how happy I was for her. There was no talk about God opening or shutting doors. I stayed as far away from “God” as I could. It would be a while before I understood both God’s goodness and Westminster’s wisdom.
Hind’s Feet in High Places
Sometimes God allows something painful that shrouds Him in darkness. He appears as an unkind friend, callous and indifferent, showing less love than a natural father—and we cannot help but withdraw—confused, angry, offended. It is the Spirit’s job to coax us through that pain, until that time when some of it is explained. Oswald Chambers wrote, “There is a cloud on the friendship of the heart, and often even love itself has to wait in pain and tears for the blessing of fuller communion.” [i]
The next day, Sunday, I had to fly to Phoenix to meet Bill. On that plane I let go and cried, I stormed at God and pounded on Him hard, as the country slipped beneath my window, where I could see the dim reflection of mascara smeared across my face. I felt dead inside, dead toward God; I wondered if God even cared how Matt was going to feel the next morning, as he stood alone, his street friends waving and honking as they drove by. Everyone had been cheering him on, telling him they couldn’t wait till next year when he drove to school with them. It was a mess. Did God even care?
No matter how bad things get between me and God (and of course none of this was God’s fault, it was just the mess that I had made, trying to do my best in a highly competitive system trying to do its best to educate children) . . . Anyway, no matter how bad things get between me and God I almost always find my way back to Scripture, hoping to get grounded. Having grieved till I was spent, I dutifully turned to my Scripture reading for the day…it happened to be Habakkuk.
This would never have been my choice, as it is a book filled with threatening imagery: rods of chastisement, scourges, and calamities. But in the third chapter, even as Habakkuk describes the fig tree with no blossom, the vines with no fruit, and his people facing extreme adversity, Habakkuk cries out, exulting in the God of his salvation… and suddenly the verses on the page began to paint a picture . . . I saw God, as Habakkuk had seen Him, in the midst of the adversity, leading His child tenderly up the steeps of danger and difficulty to teach him how to walk with hinds feet in high places . . .
Hab 3: 19, The Amplified Bible
The Lord God is my Strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army; He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and will make me to walk [not to stand still in terror, but to walk] and make [spiritual] progress upon my high places [of trouble, suffering, or responsibility]!
In a time of great adversity, Habakkuk saw God—leading him personally up the high places of difficulty and trouble, where the wind was blowing hard and cold, and the steeps were terrifying. But he saw that His God was giving him hind’s feet in these places… like those nimble creatures, he was being taught how to leap with agility and move with confidence upon treacherous slopes where few would dare to go. And it caused him to exult in God’s personal saving care.
Like a key fitting the lock, Habakkuk’s words unlocked my hurting confused heart, and the darkness fell away from the face of God. My boy had not been abandoned or shut out by God; he was being led where I could not take him. He was being given what I could not give him. He was being taught more than I believed he was capable of learning. And my heart exulted, as I tasted just a little of what it means to be counted worthy of suffering. Even a little boy can be counted worthy of being given hind’s feet in high places.
Just about then The Spirit said, “tell Matt that I never shut a door unless I am opening another.” But I had no idea where that door lay.
Fresh off the plane, my first Monday back in Atlanta, a friend called . . . to tell me that Trinity School had three openings in their rising 3rd grade class. We called Trinity. They loved Matt. It was the perfect place for him. He was challenged but protected from the performance expectation under which Christi thrived. Each of them flourished where they were.
Four years later, nearing the end of Trinity, Matt applied for the rising 7th grade at Westminster. They invited small groups of applicants to come in the evenings, to give the school a chance to get to know each child personally. Understandably, Matt felt some apprehension. As we neared the gate, the evening of his interview, a haphazard question popped into my mind, and I repeated it to Matt, thinking it might help to prep him. “Matt what books did you read this summer?”
“Mom, I don’t know! I don’t remember!”
“Oh come on, Matt, wasn’t there one about ….
“Oh yeah, yeah I remember”….and off he went as the fear fell away and his enthusiasm brimmed.
A little over an hour later, I picked him up. “How did it go?” I asked with a measure of hope at the bounce in his step.
“It was easy, Mom, no sweat,” he grinned. “And guess what! You won’t believe it. After we told them our names, they turned to me first and asked, “So, Matt, tell us what books you read this summer . . .” [ii]
* * *
The key elements of this story reveal God’s intimate and immediate involvement in our lives—thinking His thoughts through our own, giving us specific keys of scripture to unlock our understanding, so that we know how to walk with Him. The Holy Spirit’s leading runs like a river through our days, and nothing is more important, to my mind, than each of us learning how to recognize that flow.
I also share this story because God proves Himself willing to take hard risks with us that we don’t expect .. . to further His purpose . . . which is not to keep us soft, spoiled, comfortable and happy. In the hardest most painful moments of our lives we are tempted to judge Him, not realizing the extent to which love is willing to go to achieve what we don’t yet value.
When darkness falls upon the face of God for any one of us, we are judging Him wrongly, estranged, cut off and alone, feeling as if God is against us–as Matt did, sobbing on his bed. But we are no more abandoned than he was; we just don’t realize there is more to the story.
With the new year stretching before us, we take our stance awaiting the crack of the gun. Neither tense nor too relaxed, let us focus on the provision of The Holy Spirit as our coach—savoring the challenge of the hills, the steeps and the strains that lie ahead. We each run our own race in the same pursuit—of hind’s feet in high places—the strength and agility that comes as we learn how to cope with adversity trusting God. May each of us so grow in our fuller communion with Him, that it renders fear and doubt, darkness on His face obsolete.
[i] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 12th
[ii] Bill and I will always be grateful to Westminster for the education they gave all four of our children—but we are equally grateful that they recognized the tenderness of one, waiting until he was ready, before they welcomed him.