Axiom: When God speaks, no one has any trouble hearing Him.
I know that I know that God has spoken to me, but I have no recollection of the time or event when He gave me the words that I now carry in my mind. I have a message inside my head - a message from God to me - but I have no memory of when that message was given. At some indeterminate point this summer while on vacation, I knew something that I hadn't known before. I don't know how it got there, but this "message from God" was burned into my mind:
I will be your reward.
God said this to me - I don't know when, I don't know how, I don't know where. I only know that these words are in my head, and I didn't put them there.
For as long as I can remember, my experience of life did not measure up to my expectations. I thrashed about trying to make sense of it all. I've made messes, hurt people, tried things, rejected beliefs and - in the immortal words of Bono - "still haven't found what I'm looking for." A deep, brooding dissatisfaction with life has marked me and colored every day in melancholy shades of gray and blue.
Not long ago, I was reading Jesus's instructions about the things we hold dear: "wherever your treasure is, there will your heart be - so store up treasures for yourself in heaven where they cannot be stolen or rot or rust." I remember responding saying to God something along the lines of: "Help! I don't know how to treasure heavenly things. Please help me do that."
I guess maybe that was one of those dangerous prayers - you know - the kind you shouldn't pray without strapping on your crash helmet. But I prayed it. And today I realized that since I prayed that prayer and since He spoke those words into my head, I have experienced a radical reorientation in my life. I had just finished lunch with a friend, and as we were parting, he asked if he could pray for me. I'm always grateful that anyone would talk to God on my behalf, so I said sure. He then asked me, "what do you want me to pray about?" and it struck me - I have everything I need.
I have lost everything in this world that I counted dear: my marriage, my children, my home and - to some extent - my church. And yet God has not abandoned me. I don't know how I know that, but I do. Even though I am bereft of the things that were most important to me, even though I feel their loss accutely, even though the external circumstances of my life are bleaker than they have ever been, God has not abandoned me. He's here hanging out with me, even as I stumble and bumble through the biggest mess and most difficult, painful experience of my life.
He's not making me feel better - I feel like shit most of the time. He's not easing my circumstances - they suck. He's not vindicating me - my reputation is shot. He's not doing any of the things that I used to think He should do to make me feel loved. Yet I feel more loved than ever in my life.
I cannot explain this except by saying "He is with me." And because He is with me, I just don't care what people think of me. I don't really care if I am doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. I don't care if people think I have gone off the rails, or that I am a lost cause or have abandoned the faith. I don't need to explain. I don't need to defend. I've lost everything I ever thought I cared about, and now I know - even if I never get any of it back again - God is with me.
So I told my friend, "I can't think of a thing to ask of God. He is with me - what else could I possibly need?"
He has become my treasure. He is my reward.