The Table

My husband and I have the insane privilege of serving on Young Life Staff, an incredible organization made up of people who love Jesus and hold the impossible idea that we are to reach “every kid, everywhere for eternity.”

Every four years, the mission gathers its staff from the corners of the earth – this year over 5000 from 99 countries – and treats them to the most incredible celebration. This year we heard from Matt Chandler, Louie Giglio, Efrem Smith, Dave Ramsey, Jen Hatmaker, Joni Eareckson Tada and Jefferson Bethke. We shut down Universal Studios and danced to Crowder and Lecrae. These “conferences” are truly epic events filled with training, teaching, entertainment, rest, surprise… they’re  my favorite gift being in the mission of Young Life and offer a taste of heaven every time. Before sharing all the nuggets from this year’s celebration, I must rewind.

Four years ago, a most incredible woman got up on stage to share her heart, somewhere between Tim Keller and Francis Chan. She was petite, but her words, the cadence of her voice, the content of her speech gave light to deep wisdom, great strength and an undeniable power that comes from spending hour upon hour in private conversation with the living God.

She happened to be talking about prayer. I leaned in as I didn’t want to miss a word.

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

I remember when, as a Freshman in college, I really began to walk with Jesus. Though I grew up knowing  a lot about God, and I really liked who I understood God to be {in part because I was told he was my heavenly Father and my own dad loved me ridiculously well}, I cannot say that I really knew God.  Whenever I had prayed in the past, I talked to “God”, and certainly never used the name of Jesus. It was as if that name was a private nickname, reserved only for those who had an insider track with God. I was not yet familiar, not yet comfortable with the name of Jesus, as if something in me knew it demanded intimacy I had not achieved and speaking it felt like treading on territory that was unavailable to me.

Often when I prayed, I felt like I was talking to a wall. And as I began to poll people who I knew were real live Christians, {not just the nominal kind that thought attending a church made you a Christian, as if merely attending a wedding meant you were married}  I began to learn that there were people that actually actually talked to Him and knew somehow that they were always heard by Him… and they heard from Him. What!? I wanted that. I really really did.

And so I began to ask and ask everyone who I knew who claimed to know Jesus, “How do you pray?” “How do you hear from Him?” “How do I do that!?”

And as I listened and learned and read my bible {a lot in the Psalms}, I discovered how raw people were. How honest we can be. That God in fact LOVES to wrestle with us and can handle our doubts and fears and frustrations and loves to enter in with us when we have a crush or a new discovery or an epic failure or a great success… and even more, He is with us in the mundane.

And so my prayer journey really began. But I remember getting hung up at times too on things like, “Who do I talk to?”  I mean, there are three of them! God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus prays to the Father and tells us we should address the Father. But then the bible says Jesus is our intercessor, and he accepts worship and we can pray to Him too. And then Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, who helps us and is always interceding for us and we need his help so we should talk to him also.

What?! So is there a specific person I should talk to for specific things, like a division of labor in the Godhead? What if I am addressing the wrong one!

Yes, I am a nerd, and  conundrums like this  plague me!

While I am not sure it hindered me from moving forward, issues like this get tucked away… until the Lord brings them forth and contends with them, one such time happening at All Staff, four years ago,  with this sweet and lovely and powerfully petite woman named Diane, as she thoughtfully explained how she prays.

. . . . . . . . . . .

She laid out that the Father, Son and Spirit are one. A family. As if they are separate but all shared the same last name, the same DNA and are in perfect accordance and submission one to another. And they are in the most beautiful of communities, always discoursing, sharing planning, preparing, encouraging, teaching. And she described this word picture: At the center of our hearts, a table has been set. And there, the Father, Son and Spirit are reclining. They are constantly speaking, praying for me and for those around me. Their desires and thoughts and emotions are the very will of God.

I don’t think I ever realized that I assumed when I am not praying or not thinking of God that God is silent.  And somehow when I begin to pray, my “genie” God is roused from sleep and thinking “oh yes, okay! Awake now! Thanks for conjuring me up! At your service!”

No! He, THEY, those beautiful three-in-one are constantly speaking. Constantly in community. Constantly interceding for me and for the world and they are seated at the center of my being.

You and I contain the living God.

So when the God family – those 3 intermingled in my heart – gets my attention, and I suddenly have the urge to talk to Him, or acknowledge Him, or praise Him, or inquire of Him,  it was He who invited me to the table. It was He who never took His eye off me, or His spirit away from me in all the moments that my mind wandered. And it is my unique privilege and opportunity to pull a chair up to the table set in the center of my heart, and enter into the conversation.

I often realize that when I pull my chair up, my tendency is to just start talking. But He is teaching me to listen first, to ask what He is already doing, already discussing, already planning and then ask how that involves me. Often I will enter in and ask Him if there is anything He wants me to do, and He just responds with. “I love you.” In fact, that is most often what I hear. I will ask God for a decision or a direction, and He just whispers softly “I love you.” Which is wonderfully infuriating when you really want an answer. But then you realize that that really is an answer. That if I allow His love for me to guide me in my decision making, I will be more thoughtful and confident and assured that He really does love me and have good for me. I will trust Him more. I will laugh with no fear of the future.

It has been a long journey, this learning how to discourse with an invisible God. But that insatiable thirst I had to speak to Him in a raw and honest and authentic way began the most incredible adventure. And I can say today that I talk to Him a lot. And he talks a lot. I love love love to hear from Him.

He is speaking.

“I love you,” he whispers.

Do you hear Him?

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