I want God to speak to me in the thunder - because I could be sure I heard him then. I want to feel his voice penetrate me like the quaking of the earth's crust. I desire to feel his current pulsing within me as the waves of the ocean. I even wish for just a sparkle of his presence in times when I don't feel him all that close. These are the ways I want God - but you really know how it is I hear and feel him? Yep - in the still small voice, or the peaceful repose of just resting in his presence when I don't know what else to do.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
As with any other relationship, hearing God's voice is easier when we have grown in "conversational relationship" with him. First and foremost, we grow in conversational relationship with God when we believe he actually WANTS to speak to us. Yes, we might not recognize his voice, nor will we respond to it immediately, but when we actually begin to believe he wants to carry on conversation with us, we will approach him differently. Think for a moment about a small child who doesn't know for sure if that adult reading the paper at the table across from him in the diner actually likes children. If the child wants to know, what does he do? He starts talking to the man! He asks questions. He poses ideas. Then he waits for a response.
What is the child doing? At first, he is testing the waters a little. He poses a simple idea or question - like asking if the man likes pancakes. To the small child this is a relevant subject worthy of discussion because he likes pancakes. God doesn't expect us to come to him to talk about great theological subjects - he wants us to approach him with the things which are relevant to where we are today and what we are going through in this moment of time. As the child poses the questions, initiating the conversation, he then waits. Why? He expects an answer! He might even move a little close to the man at the table by leaning over in his own chair, or turning to face him in the booth. Why? His "posture" suggests he expects a return of conversation. Sometimes we pose questions and walk away - forgetting that our posture might actually play a part in us hearing the response we so desperately desire.
The other thing you will observe about the small child is his fearlessness. He isn't intimidated easily - he believes he is worthy of spending time with and he positions himself so the man will be able to give him what he desires - attentive conversation. Now, I know God doesn't always speak in audible ways, nor does he always answer us in just the ways we expected. Sometimes we pose tough questions that really are answered not so much in a simple yes or no, but in us being willing to address some of the things in our lives that actually brought us to the place we are asking these questions in the first place. Some of God's answers may be to just call us back to "center" in life - to redirect our attention to what matters. Herein is the beginning of the conversation - not in that we get our immediate question answered, but in that we are set again upon the path that will lead to the answer.
What does the child want more than anything? Is it really to know if the man likes pancakes? Probably not. In fact, what he desires more than anything is just to be able to interact with this one he considers "bigger than him". It is how we approach God most of the time when we first start to talk with him - as though we just want to know we can interact with someone we consider "bigger than us or our problems". God might just speak to us more through the simple nudges of the Holy Spirit prompting us to do something unexpected, or to read a particular book by a good author. He may help us find fulfilling conversation with a sage adviser. He might even just lead us into quiet repose and reflection, bringing us to the place we kind of just "sit on his lap" a while. Some of the most memorable times I had with my dad were times when we just "hung out" together - not really talking so much as just observing each other.
We might think the heavens are brass and God doesn't desire us, but this is the furthest thing from truth. We first position ourselves to hear, then we pose our questions and make our observations. In turn, we wait for the answers. They most likely won't come the first time we ask, or in the way we'd hoped to have received them. We all want "clear cut answers", but God usually goes about answering us with more questions! Why? I think it might be that he doesn't want the conversation to end! He wants us to be fully unburdened and totally free to share - then he wants us to be comfortable just sitting in his lap a while - still, comforted, and attentive. Just sayin!