September 29, 2006
Old Men Will Dream Dreams (Revisited): Was it really the voice of God?
Last month we shared the disturbing late night experience of Pastor Nick Overduin. While sleeping in his study Overduin had a frightening encounter with "The Voice." His experience started a conversation about our openness and skepticism toward the supernatural. Nick Overduin is back to respond to many of your comments and concerns, and to keep the conversation going.
I appreciate the comments that were made in response to my Aug. 18, 2006 article "Old Men Will Dream Dreams." I have searched the links regarding "sleep paralysis," and definitely resonated with those descriptions. I think, physiologically, this was my experience. However, according to my understanding of God as the Creator, such a scientific diagnosis does not eliminate the possibility that God was saying something to me precisely at such a time.
I believe God reveals himself through the normal processes of the world he made. If God would speak to us at all, it would usually be through phenomena that already exist, and that could include psychiatrically-tinged events such as "sleep paralysis."
People mentioned numerous reservations and red flags. I too have many. If everyone would start reporting events like this, I would likely become very skeptical of the whole business. One writer said, "What if it was the devil, trying to keep people from praying?" Good question. But as another writer said, the issue is "How did the experience stack up against the word of God?" The verse about God being irritated by long hypocritical prayers was, for me, a confirmation of the Voice's authenticity. But I concede, of course, that I will never know.
One writer asked, "What did you DO about it?" I emphatically refrained from using the experience as a piece of ammunition. At the time it happened, I was in the middle of an intense denominational controversy that lasted about four years. I did not feel it would be fair to bully anybody with what I thought I heard. I kept totally quiet about this experience. Now that the battles have subsided, I feel more comfortable with sharing.
Did I have a vested interest in my experience, e.g. was it my own subconscious speaking to me? Was I elevating my internal conviction to the heights of Sinai? I do not think so. I had not had this thought on my own (namely, that the official "Prayer of Repentance" was too long). Also, please note that God does not actually commit himself to any viewpoints or particular sides in our church conflict during the experience that I had. He simply demonstrates (if this was God) a loathing of hypocrisy, which is consistent with the character of Himself that he reveals in Holy Scripture.
What did I do with this experience? Personally, I have allowed myself to be deeply affected by a God who can love us so very much that we are not consumed by his anger. Also, I felt more brave in the midst of the conflicts. My conviction was confirmed that God cared deeply about authenticity and compassion regardless of people's opinions on the issues at stake.
In conclusion, I like the line one writer gave, "We need a consummate, complete, grounded theology on the supernatural." That would be wonderful. It is absolutely amazing how many people, of many faiths, have bizarre experiences. I'd welcome a more systematic study of this. Every pastor knows parishioners who have gone through strange things. And Christians should be more encouraged to share how they've encountered God, and in such honest comments, we will find wisdom.