The summer after my Sophomore year of college, I had a ton of time on my hands. I had acquired, by luck really, a rather cushy job. I was a caregiver for an elderly woman who had dementia. I would stay with her while her husband ran errands or played a round of golf. There were a few difficult days (like the day she broke a lamp because she said if she didn’t someone was going to come kill us), but most of the time she just slept or told me the same stories over and over or complemented my sandwich making skills. To kill the time, I read a lot that summer.
Am I Missing Something?
One of the books I read was When Dreams Come True by Eric and Leslie Ludy. It was a real life love story and I was totally hooked. As I was reading, I noticed a trend in their relationship. They were always getting these signs from God. God would speak a word to them. Something would show up miraculously to show them the way. They were seeing signs left and right.
This had never really happened to me before in my life. Sure, I had felt God leading me in certain directions, but I had never received any kind of dramatic sign like the ones described in that book. I started to think that maybe I was missing out on something. In my reading, I had been searching for a reason why I was unsuccessful in my quest for romance. Perhaps this explained it, I hadn’t been looking for clear enough signs. I hadn’t been listening to God enough.
Finding Signs Proves Harder Than It Sounded
I went back to school that year confident that God would start revealing things to me in very clear ways now that I knew he could. Very early in the year, I developed a crush on a guy I was in a leadership group with. Immediately I started praying for God to give me a sign whether this could turn into a relationship or not. The first day of class, I happened to run into him while in line for the cafeteria. He asked if I wanted to each lunch together. I, of course, said yes. What a great sign! I hadn’t even been expecting a lunch date with him (or anyone else for that manner, I fully expected to eat alone that day), but God just put it right in my lap!
As the months went by, I started trying to interpret every little thing that happened with that guy to see if it was a message from the Lord. I prayed that God would either give me a clear sign of hope or a clear sign of no. I mostly ended up being confused. What counted as a clear sign anyway? As someone who is naturally over analytical, trying to judge actions as signs or not signs was an almost impossible task. I ended up thinking something was a sign one minute and dismissing it the next. This went on for quite a while, two years, actually. Eventually, I told that guy how I felt and he told me he didn’t feel the same (which for the record, I pretty much knew by then, but I still felt like I needed to say something, just in case). A month later, he started dating someone else. How could I have missed so many signs?
What went wrong?
Ultimately, I think what went wrong was me. First off, I wasn’t really surrendered to God’s will. I just wanted God’s blessing on whatever I thought was a good idea. I hadn’t spent any time praying about or thinking about if asking and looking for signs was a good idea. It had been in a book, so I just assumed it was. I probably should have put a little more thought into the whole thing.
Secondly, I was expecting my experience to exactly match someone else’s. Just because Eric and Leslie Ludy received clear signs from God about their relationship (and I have no doubt they did), doesn’t mean that I was going to receive similar ones or even any signs at all. God doesn’t speak to everyone in the same way. Just look at the Bible. He doesn’t just a burning bush for everyone, just for Moses. He doesn’t awaken everyone from a dead sleep by calling their name, just Samuel. He doesn’t speak to everyone using dreams, but he does speak in dreams to Daniel and Joseph, among others. God speaks to different people in different ways, and that’s okay. Paul even talks about this in 1 Corinthians 12. We all have different gifts. We are all different parts of the body, but we are all one body. If we are as different as body parts, we should expect God to speak to us in different ways.
I truly believe that some people hear the voice of God at certain points in their life. I never have. I truly believe that some people speak in tongues. I never have. I truly believe that God speaks though other people and books and sermons. That I have experienced! Just because one isn’t as sexy as the other, doesn’t make it any less valid or important. They are all valid and we should affirm one another in the ways God speaks to our friends and family, even if it’s a different way than how God speaks to us.
How about you? Whether you’re wanting God to speak into your life about your relationship (or lack thereof), your career or your attitude, how he does it is not necessarily going to be the same way as how he speaks into your friend’s life. How has God spoken into your life in the past? Those are likely to be the ways he does so in the future, but they don’t have to be. The important thing is that we don’t limit what God can do based on our past, our expectations, or someone else’s experience.