Do you ever stop to think about all the ways you communicate with people on a given day? Obviously there is a lot of verbal communication, whether that be through in-person conversations or over the phone. We also communicate quite a bit through written words, especially in this modern age. We are seemingly always texting, instant messaging, and emailing countless people throughout our days. Beyond that we are also communicating non-verbally, whether we realize it or not. We communicate through our body language, gestures, and eye contact. A simple shoulder shrug, rolling of the eyes, or high five can oftentimes communicate more than words can. This is all to say that we are always communicating, not only through our words but also through our actions. I was recently made aware of the importance of our daily communication on a retreat with my youth group. Our theme for the weekend was Spoken where we really delved into how God communicates with us and how we communicate with Him. I’d like to share a little more about what I learned over the course of the retreat, if that’s okay with you.
We all have our preferred method of communication. Some people love talking on the phone. Others like to communicate through email so that they can collect their thoughts before hitting send. Quite a few people prefer their communication to happen via texting. I am not one of those people. I am quite notorious for being a poor texter. In fact, I typically have at least one person a week remind me of that. For whatever reason I’m just not a very responsive texter. My excuse is usually that I’ll open the text, recite what I’d like to say in my head, tell myself that I’ll come back to it, and then I completely forget about it. To be clear, I am very aware of how frustrating that is. It bothers me when I email someone for work purposes and they aren’t timely in their response. And yet, I just cannot seem to bring myself to be timely in my own responses through text.
My preferred method of communication is through personal conversation. I would so much rather sit down and talk with someone in person than try to hold a conversation through a screen or over the phone. While I’m sure this is how most of us would rather communicate it is especially so for me. There are so many more things you can convey in a personal conversation that you just can’t in other ways. Inflection of voice, body language, you name it. If given the choice I would communicate through a personal conversation over anything else every time.
I feel that the same thing applies to how we communicate with God. We have our favorite ways of doing so. It could be through music, recited prayers, or time of reflection. Perhaps it’s by talking with someone else, journaling, or through acts of service. Regardless, we have our ways of communicating with God that we feel are the most effective. However, that doesn’t mean our preferred method is the only way, or sometimes even the best method. As I’ve mentioned, I would much rather have a personal conversation. Sometimes, though, that’s just not possible. I have friends that live across the country and talking with them in person isn’t an option. I have to settle for a phone call or a facetime because that’s the best way. When we need an immediate answer from somebody the quickest way to get a hold of them is to call them directly instead of texting. Most work meetings can be summed up in an email instead of requiring everyone to take time out of their schedules to meet in person.
Again, the same thing applies to our communication with God. Sure, we have the ways we’d like to talk with Him. But sometimes that’s not the way He chooses to communicate with us because it’s not the most effective way. That can be very frustrating. On the surface we feel like we’re doing everything we can to talk to God but it feels like He’s not responding. He’s not answering our texts, or our call, or He’s just ignoring us. The reality, though, is that He is always communicating with us. We just don’t realize it. We may be expecting Him to speak to us through quiet reflection when in reality He’s trying to reach us through a particular praise and worship song or through a service trip. When we become so fixated on a particular form of communication is when we miss what He is really trying to say. When I’m at work I much prefer to communicate through email than over the phone. But sometimes I have to be willing to pick up the phone and make the call because that’s the best way to get the job done. That’s how it is with our conversations with God. From time to time we may need to do something we’re not comfortable with in order to truly hear what He is saying.
You know what’s nearly impossible? Trying to hold a conversation at a concert. You can’t hear what the person next to you is saying and you know they’re not understanding a word coming out of your mouth. Oftentimes that’s what our lives can feel like with the chaos and noise around us. There is so much going in our lives and so many people that it can be a bit (or a lot) overstimulating. The noise can be deafening and can completely prevent us from effectively communicating with the people right next to us. Truth be told, that’s how I felt going into the retreat. I have so much going on on a day to day basis that it becomes dizzying. Through the busyness I miss out on the communication from God, even though He’s standing right there next to me, practically screaming into my ear. But I had a revelation while on the retreat. I often use my busyness as an excuse for my lack of communication. I just don’t have the time to respond. If I didn’t have all these things going on I’d be much better at communicating. My revelation was this: my busyness doesn’t make me special. It was like a newsflash – everyone is busy, you’re not the only one dummy!
As I mentioned before, going into the retreat I was feeling the burden of all the noise and chaos in my life. In my last blog post I talked about all the recent changes in my life and it’s safe to say that’s all been on my mind quite a bit. But through it all I can’t say I was really hearing God’s voice. Was it because He wasn’t talking or because I wasn’t truly listening? I pondered my revelation throughout the remainder of the retreat, thinking about how I was the one tuning God out. I reflected on how I had been communicating with God leading up to the retreat. Honestly, my efforts were pretty pathetic and practically nonexistent. And it wasn’t that I was averse to communicating differently or trying something out of my comfort zone – I wasn’t communicating at all. My favorite ways of talking with God – through adoration, nature walks, and praise and worship music – were not part of my daily routine whatsoever. I was responsible for all the noise, yet in my arrogance and foolishness, I assumed God was the one not talking. It’s like if I was at one of those concerts, left my phone in the car, and put in headphones. In that instance there’s almost no way of communicating.
However, in that instance, there is still a way to communicate. As difficult as it may be to communicate at a concert you can still do so through body language. You can turn to the person next to you and, although you can’t hear what they’re saying, you can clearly see the joy on their face and their body dancing. You can see that they are having a good time not through their words but through their actions. God found a way of communicating with me through the retreat, not by saying anything but by showing me something.
God showed me how loved I am through the people around me. I’ll admit, all of the changes I’ve had recently have brought on a good amount of stress and uncertainty. Although I didn’t outright tell Him, God could see on my heart that I was uneasy and nervous. He knew that I didn’t want to openly share my doubts out of fear. And yet, despite my stubbornness and lack of listening, He found a way to ease those fears and doubts by showing me something. He reminded me that I am surrounded by people who love me. People who will support me through everything. I have an amazing family, an incredible girlfriend, the best friends in the world, and a wonderful faith community. God broke through the noise to communicate something to me that I needed to understand – no matter what happens with all of these changes, no matter if I fail or not, one thing will always remain constant…His love.
I left the retreat with three words in particular on my mind – no more excuses. I understood that I was the one responsible for the noise. However, I have the capability of turning the noise down a bit, so long as I stop making excuses. I realized just how bad I was at communicating in so many ways. Like I mentioned before, I’m not a good texter. While that may be true, that doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t try to be better. People may try to communicate with me in ways I might not prefer. That doesn’t mean I should just ignore them or not listen to what they have to say. In the same way, God may be trying to communicate with me in ways that make me uncomfortable or ways that aren’t my favorite. But instead of making excuses and missing out on what He’s trying to say it’s on me to simply listen.
Sometimes in order to hear God’s voice you have to literally escape the noise by driving an hour and a half into the middle of the woods and spend a weekend at a remote retreat center with a bunch of teenagers and fellow adults. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have to do just that with St. Cletus Lifeteen. Time and time again this group has revealed the true nature of God’s unending love to me. While I’m caught up in the chaos and noise of my own life God works through them to speak to me and tell me exactly what I need to hear. What it is that I need to remember is that He doesn’t just speak to me when I’m on a secluded retreat with terrible cell service. He speaks to me through everything, noise and all. Consider this my pledge to start listening a little more closely. And I promise to try and answer those texts a little more quickly.