On my desk I have a yellow index card that showed up months ago from who knows where. Written in red ink, it reads:
God through me
God through close friends
God through strangers
God through enemies
It reminds me that God is always speaking to me on some level and most often through those around me. It means I have to stay in an open, teachable place, always listening, never sure when and how God might speak.
A few years ago Diane Sawyer told me she tries to stay open to counsel, even from the average guy on the street. She re-iterated to me that wisdom can come from any source and we need to be ready to listen. I've never forgotten her bit of advice.
So I try to be open to everyone, even my critics. The last point--hearing God through my enemies--is probably the hardest for me My dad always told my brother and I growing up, "Listen to even your critics, because they will tell you some truth about yourself." Hearing through the filter of adversaries, by separating the truth from the emotion, is difficult, but I believe it's another way that God exposes us to truth.
God speaks in mysterious ways. He confounds our sensibilities and arranges circumstances of our lives to show us things about ourselves, about life.
There's a hymn we've been singing at my church recently. The arrangement is remade for 21st Century worshippers but the lyrics remain the same.
God Moves in Mysterious Ways
William Cowper (1731–1800)
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
William Cowper was a British poet and hymnist. It is said he struggled throughout his life with depression, doubts, and fears. This hymn is reportedly the last hymn he ever wrote, with a fascinating (though unsubstantiated) story behind it:
Cowper often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to commit suicide by drowning himself. He called a cab and told the driver to take him to the Thames River. However, thick fog came down and prevented them from finding the river (another version of the story has the driver getting lost deliberately). After driving around lost for a while, the cabby finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper’s surprise, he found himself on his own doorstep: God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself. Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us.
So I'm learning to stay in a receptive, open place, knowing that as I maintain an open posture, God can speak to me in anyway he chooses, and like Cowper, my own life might even be saved in the process.