Rick Wamre: When god speaks, what do we hear?

Does God talk directly to you?

I don’t think he talks to me, as in, “Rick, that was a pretty stupid thing you just did. Drop and give me 20.”

No, I’ve always figured God has enough going on in the world that he’s not hyper-focused on every little thing I do or say. That’s not to say he shouldn’t be super-focused on me, given my propensity to mangle things. I just don’t think he is, because there are enough other people and issues out there that seem more deserving of his time.

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Those who believe in a God tend to believe their actions are governed by the beliefs their God has set forth. And as we know from history, people who believe they are doing God’s work — correctly or otherwise — aren’t easily dissuaded or defeated, because they believe God is on their side. After all, he told them so.

Worrying about climate change, for one. The 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria, for another. The various Kardashians’ lives, for sure. Maybe the fate of the Trinity Tollroad, although perhaps even God can’t make that thing just go away.

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I bring this up after listening to a Sunday School lesson a while back. At the time, this idea didn’t register, but the more I thought about it (meaning the teacher did a great job), the more I wondered what I actually had learned.

The lesson in question involved the teacher sitting next to a woman during a lengthy musical performance. The woman had soaked herself in a perfume the teacher didn’t enjoy, resulting in what the teacher described as akin to an existential problem: If the perfume was as overwhelming to everyone else as it was to the teacher, shouldn’t someone step up and say something?

On the face of it, it makes sense: Why should the many suffer because of the ignorance of the few (or, in this case, the one overly perfumed woman)? And so the teacher told the class she said a prayer asking what to do, and then she decided to man up, telling the woman at intermission (as the teacher left to find a scentless seat) that maybe the woman should be more considerate of others next time and not slather on so much perfume.

That isn’t the comment that later troubled me. The next statement is what drew my attention, after I had mulled the scenario:

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The teacher said she was doing God’s work in letting the perfumed woman know her thoughts, believing that by speaking up, she was giving the woman an opportunity to learn from her mistake. The teacher said she was glad God empowered her to make a difference in the lives of others.

So would God really take the time to intervene in a situation like this one? Would he use divine inspiration to induce one person to tell another that her choice in perfume should be reconsidered? And just how could the teacher be so sure she was acting as God’s instrument?

That’s one of the great wonders of life for those who believe in a higher authority, and surveys show that more than 90 percent of us still do. Those who believe in a God tend to believe their actions are governed by the beliefs their God has set forth. And as we know from history, people who believe they are doing God’s work — correctly or otherwise — aren’t easily dissuaded or defeated, because they believe God is on their side. After all, he told them so.

All of this brings me back to that original question: Do you believe God talks directly to you?

And if you do, how do you satisfy yourself that you’re hearing him correctly?

I like to believe I know the answer, but most of the time, I’m not so sure.

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