Growing up, I was always fascinated by Christianity and the relationship that people were capable of having with God.
People at church would always use cryptic, vague language when talking about their relationship with God. I was particularly curious about the phenomenon of prayer and being able to “speak” with God.
I didn’t know where His voice would come from and what His voice would sound like. Infuriatingly, the best information I could gain from adults was that whenever God spoke, it was “like a voice in one’s head.” Unfortunately, that didn’t strike me as being helpful because I had about a million thoughts racing through my mind at any given second.
So how was I supposed to know which thought was God? How was I supposed to distinguish between God’s voice, Satan’s voice and my own voice? For much of my childhood, God was more of a thing that I thought about a lot rather than someone I could have a relationship with. I knew facts and figures about God, but I didn’t know God in a very personal way.
I got to know God a little bit better in high school. I tried praying more. I wasn’t always completely confident that my prayers were said properly or were being heard, but I was taking baby steps.
I would experience a sense of being heard and not being alone. I would be happy and walking on clouds for at least a day afterwards. There was an almost body-like existence that I could in some way perceive. I wanted to talk to God, to pray, but I didn’t know how.
On a family vacation, my dad told me that by always focusing on God and what God would think about a situation, I lived in a state of constant prayer. Slowly, God became more like a friend. Perhaps a mute friend that I had a tendency to ignore or anger, but a friend nonetheless.
I recognized that God was good and that I was not. I was deceitful, manipulative and greedy. My relationship with God became unstable. Sometimes I would walk to class in the rain, laughing in God’s presence about the absurdity of everything.
Other times, I would feel that I had failed God, and I would try to hide from the God whom I envisioned waiting with anger, shame and judgement.
In high school, I read “With” by Skye Jethani. In it, he recounts a conversation that he had with a group of Christian college students about the way God views people when they sin habitually. After numerous answers of “I should do better. He’s angry with me. To whom much is given, much is required,” Skye tells the students that none had produced the correct answer. The correct answer, according to Skye, was that God loves His children even in the midst of their sin. I sobbed. This was a gospel that I had never fully and truly heard before.
After three years of receiving counseling at the counseling services building on campus, God finally helped me to believe that message was true. Last year, during a weekend long prayer event, I finally heard God speak.
There was no disembodied, audible voice. For me, it was as if a new thought that I wouldn’t have come up with intersected my line of thinking. I told God that I trusted Him to continue being good, but I didn’t trust Him to continue loving me.
God said “I am love” and I was reassured that I wouldn’t someday run so far away from God that I would become unlovable and unredeemable.
And that’s when fear began to vanish, freedom began to bloom and a true communicative relationship with God began in my life.
Mitchell is a senior psychology major from Cloverdale, Indiana.