By Kathi Pelton
Hearing God has been easy for me. I love his voice and always enjoy what he has to say, but I wonder if in the familiarity if at times I’d begun to finish his sentences, assume a conclusion due to familiar filters, or even listen without fully gazing into his face to wait for him to finish. We can become so familiar with hearing someone that we are not actually listening. Hearing and listening are two different things.
We see this in marriages often. We can easily become so familiar with our spouse that we begin to half-hear what is being said with our backs turned in busy activities and assume the full meaning. Familiarity is easy and comfortable but it also robs us of depth and intimacy. There can be assumptions and carelessness that comes with familiarity.
I am not speaking into any particular issue or to anyone person particularly but myself and anyone who can relate to this. When I first began hearing the voice of God and feeling his presence, I would tremble when he’d speak. The awe of intimacy would take my breath away and cause me to listen attentively. I would listen, ponder, meditate and tremble at his word. The same is true with my husband. In our first years together when he spoke the entire world stopped and my greatest pleasure was his voice and listening to what he had to say. I loved to look into his eyes and to watch his every move.
As the decades married to my husband have gone by, I often find myself assuming that I know his every move, his looks and what they mean and that the first three words of almost any sentence can lead me to a quick conclusion so I can stop attentively listening. This familiarity can make me careless or even inconsiderate because it lacks honor, intimacy and humility. His look may not have meant what I assumed at all and if I don’t take time to ask and listen then I will “hear what I hear” through familiar assumption. If I finish the second half of his sentence in my mind and stop listening then I risk the wrong conclusion and may interpret something he has said wrongly. This is a risk and reality in any long time relationship. Familiarity can be a thief of intimacy.
From the very first day of 2021 I felt the fear of the Lord come to break me out of familiarity that has at times forgotten the depth of intimacy. It has been a time of being emptied of me to find him in a new way. When I want to find something to fill that emptied place (because this season is unfamiliar and uncomfortable) I feel a deep caution to remain emptied so that the fullness of Christ can have full reign. I don’t think I’m doing it very well but even my lack leads me again to a greater emptying.
God is not trying to hurt me but he is preparing me (and you) for the days ahead because my familiarity and half-hearted hearing will not serve me well in the days to come. I must have a renewed intimacy that empties me of me to make room for the fullness of Him. I must learn to listen to God’s voice, while looking into his face and trembling at his beauty, majesty, power and wisdom.
It feels like a reset or personal reformation that breaks me out of the familiar and takes me to a place of “awe.” This is not anything that I can do in myself but it is requiring me to get still, silent and completely dependent on his grace to awaken me from the fog of familiarity. Surrender has taken on an entirely new meaning. Waiting and listening is required, resting and yielding is necessary.
The only work for me is “willingness and waiting” so that I do not run back to the familiar. At times I want to comfort myself with what I knew before and how I functioned before because it became easy.
We are approaching Purim (February 25th & 26th), which is the celebration of the salvation of the Jewish people as told in the Book of Esther, I have been thinking about how Esther had to leave everything familiar to be prepared to be queen but also to risk her life to save her people. She had to trust Mordecai’s counsel and the steps of the Lord fully. This was not a time to assume or act hastily.
We are in a similar time and we are being prepared— emptied of all that is familiar and prepared to walk as the King’s bride and to risk everything to find favor in his sight. We need to know when to act and when to wait, when to conceal and when to reveal. Carelessness and assumption can be costly if we do not learn the fear of the Lord.
It’s time to leave the familiar and allow the deep places to be forged in our lives. It’s time to be emptied in order to see the fullness of God revealed in his bride.
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