3 Keys to Reading God’s Signs

Jason is deep into his preparations for finals as he edges toward the end of his senior year. As of this writing, testing for his College Algebra, Health, Renaissance History, and Anatomy & Physiology is behind him. British Literature and Sign Language 3 will be completed next Tuesday and we’ll be calling his high school career a wrap, leaving only one student attending the Woodall Homeschool Academy.

One of the perks of my 20+ year career as parent/teacher/guidance counselor/bus driver/lunch lady while homeschooling my four children is that it’s given me the opportunity to relearn some of the things that I had forgotten from MY time of doing homework and taking tests, but more interestingly I’ve also had the chance to discover a lot of things that I was never taught at all.

Take, for example, American Sign language (ASL). When I was in school, the only options to fulfill the foreign language requirement were French and Spanish. I’m sure in other areas of the country Italian, German or even Japanese would have been equally available, but ASL wasn’t even an option back then. But that changed in 2014 and now it’s included on the list of accepted languages which cleared the way for high school students to learn this elegant form of communication as a part of their college prep work. Since our homeschool co-op began offering classes a few years ago, ASL has been the perfect choice for my kinetic son. And, like basically every other class they take, the homeschool teacher (me) has had the opportunity to learn it as well, and discover what a beautiful language it really is.

Yesterday, I was busy in the kitchen when Jason asked me to help him prep for his exam and I assumed that I could do two things at once.  But chopping vegetables, putting ingredients together, and trying to comprehend what he was signing just didn’t work very well. With my attention on what was in front of me, I couldn’t see the signs he was using, and he couldn’t read my motions either. I finally had to set dinner aside, and turn myself completely toward him before we could actually understand each other…

… and in the process, I  learned more about talking with God than I did about sign language.

Remove distractions 

 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Ps. 119:15

Since ASL is a visual language, it’s virtually impossible (at least for a novice like me) to grasp context and meaning of what’s being said while trying do other things. Same is true in your relationship with God. If you want to discern what the Lord is saying, it requires that you put away disruptions. You may have discovered that it’s hard to zero in on anyone or anything with a preoccupied mind. It’s exponentially harder to hear God with the noise of the world buzzing in your head. While you can pray at any time (even in the most chaotic situation), if you truly want to comprehend the ‘still, small voice’ of the Lord, try turning off the television, logging out of social media, and silencing your phone. You might be surprised just how much you will hear when you prioritize Him and move everything else out of the way.

Orient Yourself Correctly

They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen… Jer 32:33

To begin a conversation in ASL, you need to face toward the person you want to sign to and make eye contact. While you can’t see God with your eyes, you can situate yourself in proximity to Him by directing your attention to the Word of God. Since He’s already spoken clearly about His will in the pages of the Bible, you should always start there. Don’t be concerned about whether you will grasp the meaning of every verse you read (there are plenty of passages that are plain and simple), rather be diligent in applying what you do understand. Remember what Jesus said about the relationship between obeying His Word and knowing His heart. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”(John 14:21) As you “seek His face” in this way, being careful to apply His general instructions, you’ll also find it much easier to discover the more specific things He wants you to do.

Pay attention to subtleties 

 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard… Hebrews 2:1

ASL is full of nuances. Small directional changes in hand motions, facial expressions, eye gaze, and the force with which you make the signs can make a big difference in meaning. A relationship with God is full of nuances too. Sometimes His messages come in highly visible and unmistakable ways, like through visions and miracles (which do still occur today), but more often He uses ordinary avenues which requires that we pay attention carefully. Every day circumstances, the counsel of a trusted friend, and of course, Bible reading and prayer are His more refined methods of communication. In addition, He may choose to speak through the natural world, music or literature, and even through the voice of your enemies.  Many of His methods aren’t flashy like hearing a voice from a burning bush (Ex. 3) or being struck blind while traveling on a business trip (Acts 9), so we have to learn to  intentionally look for His subtle movements in places that we might not expect them to be. While He can, when necessary, use more dramatic means, His goal is for us to be so deeply aware of His movements that we can wordlessly discern Him say “this is the way walk in it.” (Is. 30:21)


18 thoughts on “3 Keys to Reading God’s Signs

  1. I think Karen, I’m running out of superlatives in commenting on your blogs. This one was EXCELLENT! God does want our undivided attention. It seems the older I get, my attention span gets shorter. Many times in praying in the mornings I get distracted by the dog, the birds singing outside, etc. I’ve learned to practice the example Jesus lays down in Matthew 6, regarding the “closet” principle. Now that “closet” may be a daily commute, a bench on the side porch, or even the kitchen table to cut vegetables on. The point is that the “closet” is free from interruption, distraction, and listening ears.

    1. I agree, Mel. I’d heard pastors and teachers say that getting alone in a space to pray and seek God was the key for years, but until I tried it, I had no idea the difference it would make. distraction and interruption will continue to happen until we make seeking the Lord a priority! Appreciate you dropping by and sharing your encouraging words!

  2. Hi Karen! What a great lesson from studying and making dinner 🙂 I love those aha kind of moments ♥ Thank you so much for joining me in sharing hope through #MomentsofHope!
    Blessings and smiles,

  3. Dear Karen, what a terrific object lesson! And how great that ASL is now being accepted as a language requirement:) Spring mornings and a little extra time lately have provided the perfect opportunities to spend rich time with the Lord, and your 3 tips are on point for making the most of them. Thanks and blessings for sharing!

  4. This was great! My 13-year-old son has been taking sign language for 4 years now and I love that he is getting to learn this amazing language. (I attempt to learn it… but well, let’s just say I’m not the best at it) It is true that just like sign language, our communication with God takes our full attention. Great post!

    1. I’m like you… I try, but I’m not great at it. All it takes is for me to be around someone who really knows about sign language to show me what I DON’T know. But I keep trying anyway. Maybe we can learn something from that… that listening to God also takes persistence. Just because someone else seems better at it than we are, that’s no reason to give up. Rather it ought to encourage us to keep at it, seeing where we ultimately could be if we don’t give up!

  5. Hi Karen, I just found your post in the Journeys in Grace link party (my first time to think link up). Your title caught my attention because this is something I want to learn more and more about – how to hear from God. I love it when God uses ordinary situations – like helping your son study for an exam – to speak to us. He doesn’t have to use a huge spiritual awakening to talk to us; He can use our everyday routine 🙂 Thank you for reminding me that it doesn’t have to be complicated – it can be quite simple. Just look to Him, be quiet, and pay attention.

    I wrote a little bit about learning to hear God’s voice a few months ago when I discussed how God convicted me that it was time to leave my full-time job and be at stay-at-home-mom. https://heatherhooks.com/2017/12/01/the-time-god-told-me-to-leave-my-full-time-job-yes-i-thought-it-was-crazy-too/

    Thanks again for your post, and congrats to your son!

    1. I think we are prone to over complicate listening to God. It’s not a certain formula or saying the right words… it’s mostly paying attention. The problem is not the Messenger, but with us being willing and able to hear what He’s saying. thanks for reading and commenting, Heather.

  6. What a vivid analogy of ASL and our communication with God! Your ending thoughts reminds me of when the Lord spoke to Elijah at Horeb. Keep shining your light for Christ. It is a true beacon of hope and inspiration.

    1. I love that story of Elijah in the cave too. God wasn’t in the noise and confusion, but revealed Himself in the quiet and calm. Lots to learn from that story! Thanks Joe.

  7. Hi Karen, I use American sign language in my artwork and I can completely appreciate your visual illustration in this post. Praying we all focus our eyes on God and His goodness today and always! Many blessings!

    1. I stopped by your website to look at your work! Love how you are using the fingerspelling to tell God’s story. I can join your prayer that His children will retrain ourselves to focus on Jesus and listen closely to Him.

  8. This is so wonderful, Karen! I am a speech therapist so I use signs with my clients but I love this perspective! I will be thinking about it for sure when I’m using signs at work from now on. Thank you for linking up at GraceFull Tuesday!

    1. Glad you were encouraged to see sign language in a new light! Blessings on your work with people you work with! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. What beautiful lessons you learned! I love how being a teacher positions me as a student more often than not. Congratulations on your son’s accomplishments!

    1. Oh yeah! Learn soooo much about God from teaching my kids! It’s a great blessing! And btw, Jason is taking his sign skills and going on a mission trip to a deaf village overseas. That’s going to put his lessons to a real test, but I’m thrill that I can help him learn in even a small way. Thanks Anita!

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