Can I Know God Personally?

We all crave relationships, but how does that work with God? Can you know God personally? The Curiosity Collective brings together thought leaders, subject matter experts, pastors, and theologians to explore how you might come to know God.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. How could Jesus be perfect? What are the implications of that?
  2. How might one develop a personal relationship with God?

Can you help me understand what it means to know God?

Yeah, definitely. There's no doubt in my mind that I can do that. Um, let me just think how to answer that exactly. As a kid, I was— I had this place inside of me that— you know, that deep down place where you don't share with anybody, where you hold your actual ideas and what you really feel about things. You know, like, there's, there's tarps covering up old skeletons, and there's, there's books and magazines that shouldn't be sitting there, and there's, there's things that I've written on the wall of this place inside of me that— I wouldn't invite anybody in to see that stuff. When people say, like, you can have a personal relationship with God, um, those words kind of wear out all the time, but I think, for me, what it means is there is this space inside of me that I've been existing in for so long and having these conversations with myself for so long, and it was— it was stunning to realize that that space inside of me was meant to be shared with God.

See, I think the funny thing is, I think people are scared to open their hearts up to God or even open their minds up to God because they think God is gonna force them to do weird stuff or become a weird person, and they don't want that, so they avoid it. And that was exactly where I was. Like, I was in a place I thought, "I just— whatever they're selling, I'm not interested," and then you realize, "Wait a minute, God is the most wonderful thing in the world." He doesn't want to embarrass people or make them join a religious cult or get freaky, He wants to make them fully human. He wants to, them to, to be, uh, who they are, and He knows that they can't really be that without Him. It's like a car without gas in the tank. Like, you know, it might look nice, but it's not really going anywhere.

I have never learned more about God and His love for me than from being a father and looking at my own kids. But it's funny that I've learned more about myself by looking at my adopted kids from Ethiopia. As I look at their unreasonable fear and distrust of me, and wondering, Do they— Does he really love me? Does he really care? Uh, if I do this, is he still gonna love me? Is he still gonna welcome me into my family? And I've realized that just as no matter what my kids could ever do, they didn't do anything to earn my love. They could never do anything to lose it.

Hey, how can you know God personally? That's one of those, like, I'm glad you asked, uh, type questions. It's a pretty simple way to put this— that God created us to be in relationship with Him, but sin that is normal to all of us, that seems to come by nature, and then sin that we do by practice, has broken that covenant with Him. And no amount of us mustering up good acts will ever outweigh the bad acts that we do. The problem is this: it's not that we're bad, it's that what the scripture says is that we're dead, right? And, and, and how loud does an alarm clock need to be to wake a dead man? Uh, it's impossible, right? So the miracle is in what God does at this point.

Uh, the Bible teaches us that God sent his son to Earth as a person, Jesus of Nazareth, and then voluntarily gave himself on the cross, shed his blood, and in that moment, what he did was he made it possible for our sins to be removed because his blood was spotless. He was a perfect sacrifice for us. But what we really need to understand is that he initiates it. He's drawing us. All we have to do is say, "Yes, Jesus. Apply that to me. Wash me clean and live in me." And that's when the relationship starts.

What God has given us— He's given us a couple tools to know Him. One of those is scripture, um, which, as an academic, I had a really foolproof plan in how I was gonna approach scripture— I'm gonna start in Genesis. I'm gonna read the whole thing perfectly through. I'm gonna have my highlighter. I'm gonna make notes. I'm gonna make it a class. And, um, I missed the whole point, that God really wants to speak to us through His word. And so what I would encourage someone to do if they really are seeking, is to open up the Bible and to read and, and to really let yourself be vulnerable in doing that and be open to what God wants to say. Because what I have found is just when I do that and when I really let myself— not go in with an agenda, but just open up scripture and read, I really do hear his voice. I don't hear an audible voice, but I know truth that I didn't know before. And I feel an affection for him and a sense of his nearness.

Originally, I thought God was so far away. You know, like, you walk into a church building, and it's kind of spooky quiet, and, and that's where God is. And then I just started, kind of like, saying, Well, God, if you're real, I think I can talk to you here, as well as if I'm in a church building. And little by little, as I started praying— and, and, you know, if I'm in my car, if I'm just walking around— uh, it, it dawned on me one day, like, all of a sudden, I'm like, "Jesus," you know, as I'm speaking, I'm like, "He's a friend." It was a slow, gradual thing, and it, and it felt like my search was more intellectual, in the sense of, I wanted evidence. I wanted to know I was not just believing in— like, this— you see 'em on late li— late night TV commercials— like, "This mop will change your life." And, you know, "I wanna buy the mop." You know, like, I don't wanna feel like I was buying into something just at a short-term emotional fix. Is there credible reasons for this? I hope there is. And it— and when I did, then it moved to my heart. And I believe God looks for people whose hearts are open to, to him. And, and then it, it was like I entered into this relationship.

I have a journal. Sometimes in the journal, I would ask God a question. And then I leave all these lines in the journal blank, just to say, "God, here's a question I have, and I would like to know what you think about this," or especially if it's about my life or decisions I'm trying to make. Uh, like, when I was dating before my husband and I got married, and I would go out on a date, sometimes I would ask God, Should I be dating so-and-so? Then I would leave these lines in my journal to find out. And over time, God would answer. I would go out on a date with the person, and it was, like, right in the middle of that date, I knew. No. I, I knew the answer was, "No, I shouldn't be dating you." I wouldn't say that out loud to the person. You know, you at least wait till dinner's over. But I, I would know inside myself, "Mm-mm. I shouldn't, I shouldn't be here, and that is the answer to my question."

The way that you talk to God is just like I'm talking to you right now. You could literally say, "Hey, God, what's up?" You just talk to him. There's not some big ceremony. There's not this big thing. There's not this big— You just talk. He knows your heart. He wants to have a conversation with you.

Um, one thing that has been helpful to me, honestly, is to ask him things and to then be quiet and see what enters my heart and my mind.

Be prepared. Um... the— it rarely comes in the form you imagine. He wouldn't be much of a God if you say, uh, and I got a pretty good idea how it's gonna happen.

I do know all kinds of people that have had a plethora of experiences. And it really is never gonna be the same way twice. God treats each of us as individuals, so you're, you're not the same as other people. So you don't need to worry about how. You just need to know he somehow wants to communicate, and it might not even be supernatural. It might just be at some point, you logically get to a place where you, you say, Yeah, this is true.

I think there is, there is a world out there that we don't see. And I do believe God is constantly trying to get our attention. He just tends to speak more in whispers and mysteries. He doesn't overwhelm us so that we can find him and possibly fall in love.

It's at least worth a look to try to figure out if, uh, if this God in Heaven that the, that the, that the Bible often calls Father... Father... is interested in being our Father. It's at least worth a look.