From time to time, for whatever reason, my wife and I will carry on conversation while we’re in different rooms of the house. I don’t recommend this as a primary form of marital communication. It’s good for brief exchanges of information, but not so good for conveying deep concern about a matter or deep affection for one another.
These conversations are particularly risky for someone like me. Unlike my wife, I do not process things verbally. I don’t “think out loud.” The book of James says something about being “slow to speak.” I have no trouble being obedient to that biblical admonition. I like to take my time before I say something, and the process of figuring out exactly what I want to say happens somewhere between my ears, quietly.
Thus the following scenario: My wife, in one room of the house, will ask me a question. I, in an adjacent room, will hear the question and begin formulating a response. Again (see above) the response is prepared in the quiet recesses of my brain. This means that my wife, still in the other room, believes that her question is being met with stone-cold silence, and a question met with silence is a question ignored. Being ignored is an unpleasant thing and does little to facilitate a helpful conversation.
My take-away: Thoughts are best revealed by words and words are best exchanged in the same room.
There are several places in the New Testament that list various spiritual gifts. Study them closely and you’ll note that mind reading is not named in any of them. Not even once. No one knows your thoughts but you, and those thoughts remain hidden unless you speak.
Paul seized upon this truth and reminded the Corinthians that “no one knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him. In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
There are moments when we’d give anything to know the thoughts of God. So many of God’s thoughts have been recorded for us in the written words of scripture. But what about those moments when you’re trying to make a decision between two equally compelling options? What about those moments when you’re making plans for the future or when a friend asks you for advice about a very difficult situation? What about moments when you’re trying to know exactly how to discipline your child or when you’re not sure if something violates business ethics?
How do you know the thoughts of God? Paul’s letter says it plainly: they are revealed by the Spirit. And we answer, “Great. What does that mean?”
For one thing it means we don’t have to guess or play games. God wants you to know those thoughts just as much as you want to know them. God wants to reveal things to us – to guide us and give us understanding. We are not asked to “figure out” what God wants to do in our lives.
But it also means that at some point we must get in the same room with the Spirit. My wife will be my wife whether we are in different rooms or different states. The relationship remains. But we cannot truly connect unless we get in the same room. Knowing God’s thoughts as revealed by the Spirit requires the same kind of thing. We’ve got to be in the same room. The Spirit present with us, we present to the Spirit.
There’s no formula for this. Connecting with another person requires an investment of time and energy and attention. This is no less true of the Spirit of God. Start by getting in the same room with the Spirit – and then be still and listen. God is eager to speak to you.
We want to know your thoughts, O God. We give you thanks for the gift of your written word and the treasure we find there. Grant to us a willingness to be present to you, in the same room, attentive and eager to hear. Reveal your thoughts to us as you will and in your time, we pray. Amen.