We were made for conversation.
This realization comes in the first hours of birthing and never ends. Every child who grows into successful adulthood will have started with a mother’s tender gaze, cuddles, and whispered words. This parent-child bonding is woven by words of devotion and love. The child also smiles and learns to respond to a unique articulation—a name—and in time offers his or her own words of mum, mommy, abba, dada, and more.
As days and weeks turn to years the conversation of parent and child grow ever more lively and creative. More words are needed to extend the bond of shared family life. Innate creativity reaches for new ways to please and to extend the bonding work of conversations: “Daddy, what is that?” Or, “Mommy, can I help you?” And later, “Dad, what do you think of my new car?”
If we look for the source of this wonderful glue of life—the conversations of creative mutual devotion—we find it in God. We hear bits of the divine conversation of Father, Son, and Spirit from the beginning of the Bible to the end.
If, for instance, we engage the Bible account as a whole and see—as Irenaeus suggested centuries ago—the Son and the Spirit as the two hands of the Father we see the tangible creation as their shared accomplishment. And then the repeated refrain of Genesis 1 is more striking in this relational context: “and God saw that it was good.” Picture the Son coming to the Father with the latest feature of creation and read the refrain as the Father’s delighted response.
We also learn, in Ephesians 1, that the Father, “in Christ,” chose us “before the foundation of the world” to be his children. This, we realize, involved a Triune conversation “in love” that anticipated each believer—and our eternal family standing—with God.
We also find God’s invitation for us to join him in the eternal conversation. In Genesis 18, as one early example, “the LORD” spoke with his two angelic companions about including Abraham in their conversation about the coming judgment of Sodom. Abraham would be speaking to his offspring about God so he needed to be part of a two-way conversation—with God and with his offspring—“to keep the way of the LORD . . .”
In the episode that followed we find a complex account that included Abraham trying to coax God into sparing Sodom from fiery judgment. The patriarch used the premise that God’s righteousness must always be particular and never brandished in a broad sweep. God agreed, but how particular did Abraham want him to be? “Fifty?” Abraham suggested. Somehow Abraham—no doubt thinking to shelter his nephew Lot and Lot’s family—quickly realized that Sodom was well short of having fifty righteous inhabitants. So in a set of tighter requests Abraham eventually came down to the number ten. God still agreed.
Yet when the two angels came to Sodom their proffered conversation met with resistance apart from Lot himself: the citizens of Sodom had no interest in a conversation with God’s delegates. Instead they had their own ambitions. Even the families of those engaged to Lot’s daughters laughed him off. And, in the end, only four were saved along with Lot—as many as the two angels had hands to drag them away from the doomed city. And then even one of them, Lot’s wife, broke away and turned back to die.
The pattern of God coming—ready to speak with people through his prophets—only to have his words rejected and many of his prophets killed reached the finale of Christ’s arrival. Here was the Son of God, himself, who was portrayed as God’s “Word”—the ultimate basis for communing with a communicating God. But the offer of a conversation with God was rejected by all but a few.
The picture in John 17 of the Father’s heart, revealed through the Son, makes his words the bonding feature of all his true followers: “Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you: and they have believed that you sent me.”
Paul, in turn, wrote about the communion—the conversation—that comes as God engages us by his indwelling Spirit: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
But most of us are at least a little hard of hearing. The conversation isn’t particularly audible to our hearts. Call it the battle of sin.
Remember, for instance, the first expressed antagonism against God questioned his words: “Did God really say . . . ?” And, since the fall, problems in maintaining good conversation continue. Many, if not all children, for instance use words from early days that are conversation-breakers: “No!” or, in social settings, “Mine!”
The same takes place in schools when conversational learning is replaced by lectures. Or in the office where conversations about successful methods may be displaced by demands and dictates. Or in marriages where one spouse takes up a steely stare and says to the other, “Dear, we need to talk . . .”
We were made for conversations. So the dangling question for today is just this: Are you listening? And are you open-hearted to whatever God may be telling you?