"I've been praying for years now, literally years, for God to talk to me."
"Talk to you?"
"Yes, like a real person! Like a real voice."
"How do you know He hasn't been talking to you?"
"That's my point: why should I have to wonder? Why should the voice of God--of God!--be so hard to hear?"
"Well maybe it's like asking, 'Why are diamonds so precious?' Because they're so rare. Maybe this world isn't a very good 'medium' for God's voice to 'carry in,' for now at least. Then again, maybe our hearts aren't very good media for God's voice to travel in. So maybe when we really do hear Him, it's like finding a diamond. If we heard from Him all the time--like wearing a divine iPod--I think we'd start to suffer spiritual 'inflation'--'Oh, it's God again. That guy never shuts up. I'm more in the mood for hip hop right now, God, can you call back later?'"
"Good point, but our God is a God of love--He is love!--and doesn't He want to reach all people? So shouldn't He go out of His way to be heard more clearly?"
"You raise a good point. Answering it is above my pay grade."
"But it doesn't bother you. I mean...."
"Why am I not upset about it too? Why don't I want to hear from God, too?"
"Yeah. I mean, don't you want to hear God for once in your life? So you could tell all non-believers you had total proof, total confidence, that God is real?"
"Who says I haven't heard from God? I mean, I wouldn't even have faith in the first place, let alone after all this time, if God were wholly silent."
"I see your point, but it seems like a such a small favor--just, I don't know, to whisper in my ear or something. I just want a little something more from God, just once."
"All right, well, how do you want Him to talk to you?"
"Like a friend, like a normal person."
"Well, that right there--don't you think that's a little odd--to want God to be just like a normal person? I mean, what if part of a relationship with Him means He is shrouded in the mystery of His own glory? Sort of like, no matter how well we know them, we never really know the inner life of our family members and friends. There's always 'something more,' some deeper reality behind their actions and words. Like they say, still waters run deep. A waterfall is loud, but all froth and impermanence. Maybe that's the problem of knowing God, only a thousand times deeper. He's too much of a person for us to just take in like any other person."
"But He's God! Can't He overcome those psychological obstacles?"
"Who says they're psychological? I'm suggesting they might be intrinsic to the possibility of our knowing God at all. If we were the kinds of beings that could hear God clearly, like you want, on a regular basis, I don't know if we would be ourselves anymore."
"But God talked to Moses and Elijah like a normal person, so why not to me?"
"That's a question only God can answer. But I find it interesting that nearly all the people God spoke to most directly--in a really 'Hollywood' way--never asked for it. In fact, Moses and Elijah and Jeremiah and Jonas all saw God's direct attention as a burden."
"Hmm, that's a good point."
"Plus, look at the Israelites: they had tons of 'close encounters' with God, but that didn't mean they were especially devout or thankful in the long run."
"Wow, that's pretty depressing, thanks!"
"I guess my basic point is just that God is a person, and you can't just force a person to do what you want in a relationship. Who's to say that hearing from Him like you want would 'cure' your faith anyway?"
"Of course it would! It's the only thing I want. Some kind of immediate proof, or contact with God. The rest would all fall into place."
"Like I just said: Elijah, Jeremiah, Moses, and Jonas probably see things very differently. Be careful what you wish for. Job asked for a face-to-face with God, got it, and only ended up regretting his folly. Before He got a taste of God 'up close and personal,' at least he could savor his suffering as a possible bargaining chip against God. But once he saw how, well, godlike God is, and how low he was, he had no excuses, no leverage with God: he could only see God as the Almighty and love him that much more deeply in his suffering."
"Well, I'm just glad I'm not Job either. I think I get your point."
"Think about this, too: Once you got that special 'word' from God, who says you wouldn't want another and another, more and more? If loving God as He usually is for most believers, isn't enough for you after all these years, maybe after enough time, you'd get just as addicted to some higher and higher contact with God. Eventually nothing would be good enough."
"Okay, I see your point... but is one time really too much to ask?"
"Well, let me ask you: why do you what God to speak to you?"
"I told you--"
"I know. I'm asking so you can really look at the question in the first place. I mean, so you can look at your desire for some 'word' perhaps more, uh, objectively."
"What if you asked me to communicate better with you."
"And you saw I was trying."
"But then what if we reached an issue, or just some 'mood,' in which we couldn't seem to bridge the gap? Like if I disagreed with something you were doing but didn't want to argue, or I was trying to explain a new idea, or some new plan, but wasn't sure how to explain so you could really get it. So, for whatever reason, our coomunication reached a deadlock, but we were still friends."
"Well, I guess, we'd just have to be patient. Stay friends and hang out, but just kind of bracket that problem for the time being."
"Right. Do you think you could force me to communicate with you in some way you preferred, just so you sensed I was 'still there'?"
"I can only really communicate myself to you by communicating in my own way, right? And if there are times when we can't say everything we want, and times we can't even hear what the other person is trying and trying to say, doesn't it stand to reason that there are depths or 'moments' in our life with God which simply defy either our efforts to hear Him clearly or for Him to say what He wants in a way we can really grasp?"
"Fair enough. But can't God give me a break?"
"You remember when I used to teach English in Asia?"
"Well, one thing I learned is that you can't force communication if the cultural divide is too big."
"'Kay. Go on."
"I can't tell you how many times I wanted to pull my hair out in class when I'd ask a question, prompt a response, and just get blank looks. Or I'd try to explain a new topic and, while some students would try, it was just beyond them at first, so communication simply halted."
"So, no matter how much I wanted my students, and sometimes even my friends, to communicate with me in the way I wanted, at some point, I had to respect that we were simply talking across too big a cultural divide."
"So what did you do?"
"Well, I either changed the topic and gave them more time for the English to 'settle in,' or, more importantly for the point I'm trying to make, I broke into their language. There was a limit at which I could either stop communicating or sacrifice my own preferences for communication and adapt myself to the culture I had chosen to abide in."
"So you're saying...."
"I'm saying maybe there's a limit in our faith-life, when we need to get over certain 'highs' and 'lows', as psychological bonuses or losses, and adapt ourselves--adapt our own sense of communication--to God's own 'culture.' So many times people would ask me, 'How do you say this or that in English, or this and that in Chinese?' and it was really hard, because sometimes, there are things you can only say in one language. Obviously, you can translate the idea nehind some phrase or joke, but outside that original language and its culture, you just can't say it other than just saying it in the original. It's like I would always ask people, 'How do you say "cool" in Chinese?'"
"You don't--you just say 'ku'."
"Uhh, I think you lost me. Try again."
"My point is that maybe across the 'cultural divide' between us and God, Jesus is the only complete translation, but there are still 'phrases' in our lives, based on very specific things in our own lives, which just can't be 'translated' as clearly as we want. In human life as well as in life with God, there are some things which can be said only by silence."
"Whoa, that's very Zen. Unpack it for me."
"Well, the Gospel, the Good News, is that God has spoken definitively to humankind in Christ. Therefore, if we believe the Gospel, we shouldn't expect some 'better' or 'clearer' word from Him. According to the Gospel, anything more than the Incarnation and anything less than it would 'garble' the message God is conveying. Jesus Christ is God's best word to us, to each of us in the Church because Christ is the very Word of God. Demanding or expecting some 'improvement' on the voice of God in Christ is just basically to deny the voice of God, His own whole life, is truly in Christ."
"What you're saying is beautiful, but frankly, it sounds kind of harsh. Are you saying I just need to 'be tough' and ignore my desires for some special word from God?"
"Not exactly, no. I'm saying that you need to ask yourself why you want a special word from Jesus in the first place. I walk past dozens of people every day, but I don't necessarily want to hear what they have to say. Only if I already believe someone is a great figure will I want a special, personal word from him. Christians are fundamentally concerned with wanting to know what Jesus says about life and death and all the rest."
"That's a cool way of saying it."
"I say it like that because we need to always remember that Jesus Himself is the Word we want, not necessarily some secondary word from, or even about, Him. Think about it: you say you want a special word from God because you care about Him above all else, right?"
"But if you care about Him so much, you have to care about how He Himself authentically expresses Himself to us, to you. The hard, but good, truth, according to the Gospel, is that God has said all He can really say to us at this point in creation in Jesus Christ. If you think that's not good enough--if, in other words, you think the Incarnation, and its continuation in the sacraments, needs a 'boost,' or some 'extras'--then you're just not a Christian. And why would a non-Christian want a special word from Jesus? Only if you already believe Jesus is, so to speak, the only one you have ears for, then you should be able to find some peace that how He has spoken to you all this time is part of His wisdom and His worth. In fact, I think the fundamental question is: do we want God or do we want some benefit of knowing God?"