Chapter 7: Meet Boo-Boo, My Imaginary Friend

While we’re on the subject of relationships, I can’t go any further without discussing one of the most important relationships I had as a child. When I was growing up, I had an imaginary friend. His name was Boo-Boo; he was named after a fictional character, the dubious protagonist of stories my dad would tell me to make me feel better when I was sick. Boo-Boo (the story character) was a bit of a trouble-maker, and it seemed like the worse I was feeling, the more cantankerous and rebellious Boo-Boo was. Boo-Boo (my imaginary friend) was much less of a trouble-maker, but he still could be a little bit rambunctious at times.

Primarily, however, Boo-Boo (my imaginary friend) existed as a foil for conversations that I would otherwise be having with myself. Many times, these conversations were conducted in my head, but when I was alone or thought no one could hear me, I would have these conversations out loud, and since Boo-Boo didn’t have any vocal chords, I would fill in for him. But Boo-Boo definitely had a distinct way of speaking and a distinct personality from my own.

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure that if I was, I could feed you some line about how Boo-Boo was just an expression of my psyche that I didn’t know how to let out any other way, or some silly mumbo-jumbo like that. Or maybe I’d just say I was crazy. Who knows. I’m not a psychologist, and as I got older, Boo-Boo faded (I don’t honestly know what happened to him. He never “died” or anything like that, I just gradually stopped thinking of him as a separate entity). However, I still talk to myself all the time, as a way to process feelings and work through problems and issues that I struggle with.

I’m telling you all this not to confirm your suspicions that I’m a little loony (I’m pretty sure that happened a long time ago), but rather to try to explain the relationship that I have with God, and in particular a few different experiences that I can’t describe any other way: hearing the voice of God.

Now, if you spend very much time in Christian circles, this is a very common thing to hear. People will say all the time, “God told me this,” or “God told me that,” or “God told me to become a missionary to Uzbekistan.” If you don’t spend a lot of time in Christian circles, your reaction when people say things like this is probably very similar to mine: extreme skepticism.

When other people tell me that God has spoken to them, I immediately conjure up images of televangelists claiming that the world is going to end three weeks ago, or crazed cultists gibbering like rabbits and cows, or the like. It just seems so weird to me — I mean, don’t get me wrong, I believe in God, and I believe He’s active in the world, but does He really speak to people? Are you sure you’re not just making it up? Or maybe you’re a little bit crazy? Often I find that I consider “God told me to” as only marginally better justification for a person’s actions than “The devil made me do it.”

Yet at the same time, I’ve had experiences that I can’t explain any other way than as the voice of God. I’m perfectly OK with you not believing me, given my reaction when other people tell me things of this sort. But sometimes, just like when I heard Boo-Boo’s voice as something separate from my own growing up, I hear a voice in my head that is not mine. Once, a few years ago, I was walking outside under one of the first flowering trees of the spring, and the voice declared, “Behold! I make all things new!” Another time, after I’d graduated from college and was browsing Craigslist looking for a place to live in central Illinois, the voice said “Take a look at that place; you’re going to live there” (as it turns out, the place was where we’ve lived for the last five years). A third time, when I was eleven or twelve, I was walking up the long steep driveway to our house, and the voice said, “David, I’m going to do something amazing with your life.”

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what to make of it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just crazy; sometimes I believe God is speaking to me. Sometimes I think it’s just my own voice. I can’t really tell you where it comes from or what it means, and I’m not going to be upset if you think I’m nuts, but whatever it means, I can’t deny that it happens, and the most cogent explanation I can come up with is that it is the voice of God.

The one thing I have learned, however, is that when I hear that voice, it always speaks something that I can trust. I didn’t talk about this earlier, but when I got wait-listed at Harvey Mudd College, I knew somehow that I would eventually get in to the school, and that it would be good for me. I did, and it was. I also knew somehow when I graduated from HMC, that I would be moving to central Illinois, and that it would be good for me. Again, I did, and it was. There are things I don’t understand (Why did God feel it necessary to tell me that the flowers on the tree were new and blooming? What amazing thing is going to happen with my life?), but I do know that the answers to these questions are good.

There’s a really cool story in the Bible about this guy who wants to hear the voice of God, so he goes out deep into the wilderness and sits down in this cave, and starts to pray. And while he’s in the cave, there’s a massive thunderstorm that comes up, with rain pouring down and thunder and lightning, and the guy thinks, “Oh, this must be the voice of God in the thunder!” But it wasn’t; eventually the storm passes, and then a huge earthquake hits the area, and rocks are falling all around him, and he think, “God {has to be speaking in the earthquake!” But that wasn’t God’s voice, either. Finally, a powerful windstorm goes rushing and howling by the cave, and blowing trees down all over the place, and the man says “God’s voice is in the wind! I’m sure of it!” But it still wasn’t God’s voice. Finally, after all the cacophony dies down, and everything is perfectly quiet, the man hears the faintest of whispers in the air, and that was the voice of God.

I don’t really know if this story happened exactly the way it was written down or not, but I do think this is how God’s voice operates, at least in my life. It only comes when I least expect it, and if I’m not paying attention, it will be gone before I realize it was there. But I think there’s another lesson in that story — sometimes, I’m so desperate to hear the voice of God that I think everything is Him, instead of just waiting and listening patiently.

So there you have it; I’ve confessed in this chapter to talking to myself and hearing voices. I hope this doesn’t freak you out or scare you away — I don’t think it’s something to be afraid of, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s weird. I’d be happy to talk more with you about these sorts of things, though, if you want.

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