Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who Told Me?

Back, way back, at the end of October, I wrote on this blog that there were three things I would like to write about: dishonesty, "God told me," and negative testimonies. I've written about dishonesty and negative or balanced testimonies. Two months later and only two blogs later, I want to write my thoughts about the phrase, "God told me."

I could say, "God told me to write this blog." I prefer to say, "I've been thinking about what to write and I think now is the time."

A pastor in our area, wrote this comment on one of my previous blogs: Your post made me think of a recent experience with my oldest son which is along the same lines as your frustration. (He) recently told me about his former small group leader who went to a Slavic country this summer because "God told him to go". He was going to work with alchoholic guys on the street and planned on staying for a couple of years as "led by God". He was back in less than one month after experiencing the extreme discomfort. He now was saying that it was "God's will" for him to be in Colorado. (My son's) comment to me was: "Dad, next he is going to say that God wants him to get an XBox."

Perfect example of what I'm talking about!

Why do believers say, "God told me"? It's been my experience that often it seems that some people say this to lend veracity to what they're saying. Years ago there was a young man in our church who kept saying that God told him he was going to marry one of the young ladies in our church. She, however, did not have that same message from God. The young man insisted to the point of harassment. Truth be known, that young man just wanted to marry that young woman and was attracted to her. Thank goodness, she didn't believe the nonsense that God told him he was going to marry her.

Other examples I've had is to be in prayer groups or church leadership meetings and someone will propose something and introduce it with the phrase, "God told me" we are to do so and so. I've noticed how that kills all discussion. What can you say if you happen to disagree with the proposal without in essence calling that person a liar or to call into doubt their "message from God"?

My supreme or change-point experience was with a man who impressed me tremendously by telling of his life and ministry and saying he was in constant touch with God, even about little things like which way to turn on a road and what to wear for the day. He had life-saving experiences and testimonies and books. I was so impressed and so wanted to have that type of close relationship with God. However... !! When he left his wife and six children, one who is handicapped, to travel with and live with a younger, model-type woman, and was still proclaiming "God told me," was when I decided something's off here. That may have been the life-changing experience for me. I was so disillusioned and felt betrayed. I began to question all of this extra ordinary sharing of God's special leading to certain special individuals.

Saying so strongly "God told me" has definitely become one of my pet peeves. When I'm listening to a preacher who says that, I almost have to turn him off or get away. I experience anger that "God's shepherds" or pastors or leaders of people would use their position and this phrase to try to make people believe that they have a "hotline" to God. I do not believe that anyone has special privileges with God. We are all believer priests who can enter into God's presence.

What's wrong with saying something tentative like, "I think God would have me to..."? Or better yet, just saying "I think I would like to..." or "I've prayed about this and my impression is ..."

Preachers often say God is leading me to go to another church. I wish they would say I am going to investigate whether I will go to another church or stay where I am. Funny how going to another church always seems to be a bigger church and probably a better salary, etc. It just seems to me that God gets blamed for a lot of believers' decisions to do what they want to do. Then if it goes well, everyone is sure God led. But if things do not go well, then what? Well, maybe God had some experiences to teach and led in a different direction.

I do believe "all things work together for good." I really do. My discomfort and disagreement is with our trying to make God the decision maker in our lives when we really are. Often this phrase reminds me of the old Flip Wilson phrase, "The devil made me do it." To me it's quite similar. God told me to do it. Really? Hmmmm...

There are many preachers in my family so I do not speak as one distanced from that profession. My favorite type of message or sermon is one where the speaker often says that his belief or opinion is so and so, but encourages the audience or congregation to search the scriptures and come to their own conclusions. Sometimes a speaker will even give several opinions and then encourage listeners to compare scripture with scripture and let the Holy Spirit guide them to their own interpretations. How respectful and encouraging is that?

In conclusion, did God tell me to write this blog? No. Do I want to honor and please God with anything I write? Yes. The reality check is that I wanted to write my thoughts and opinions about this phrase and about people who use it. That's it.

I often wonder what God's response is to phrases like, God led me to... or God told me... If He has a sense of humor, I could speculate some responses. Whatever His response, this will be one of my questions for Him.

As we start a new year, I want to be sensitive to God's leadership and at the same time take complete responsibility for my decisions knowing that God is with me and loves me and will never leave me.
Mary B.