If someone were to ask me how God speaks – how he guides and leads his followers – I wouldn’t try to exegete Scripture, unpack theology, or even offer up my own personal experience. Instead, the best answer I could give is four simple words:
Watch Field Of Dreams.
The classic baseball fantasy from 1989, starring Kevin Costner at the peak of his career (when he was a better Gary Cooper than even Gary Cooper ever was) is nothing short of the greatest Christian parable in movie history. So on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary, along with the start of Baseball’s Fall Classic, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the ways The Voice parallels The Spirit, and how it actually stands in contrast to the “follow your passion” dream chasing that has become a common theme in so much of American Christianity.
Field Of Dreams is the story of Ray Kinsella, a humble Iowa farmer with a loving wife and young daughter. One evening while strolling through his cornfield, Ray hears a whisper from out of thin air: “If you build it, he will come.” The Voice repeats itself, quietly but firmly confirming its presence. The Voice does more than grab Ray’s attention; it stirs Ray’s soul.
This leads to an exchange between Ray and his wife, Annie, that is all-too-familiar for anyone who feels they’ve heard the Spirit’s leading:
ANNIE: What else did he say?
ANNIE: I hate it when that happens.
RAY: Me too.
This stirring leads Ray on a journey that requires much more than a leap of faith; it mirrors the full extent of what Christians call the Walk of Faith. It’s a walk that does not call us to pursue our own passions or desires; rather, it calls us away from them. It calls us to mortgage those dreams, to sacrifice them, to risk them all for the sake of what The Voice would have us pursue instead.
For Ray, his actual mortgage hangs in the balance. To build a baseball field — that has no apparent purpose — on the very land he grows his crops is foolishness, and it’s certain to cost him the very land he feels led to transform. But he follows The Voice anyway, because it’s about what The Voice wants on The Voice’s terms. Ray makes a decision to submit, and it’s a decision to which he must continually resubmit in the face of mounting reasons not to, including his own bitterness about how things work out (or don’t).
This is how I’ve experienced God speaking and leading. He coaxes and compels, mystically and in mystery, not spelling out details but just giving the necessary morsel in a spiritually profound way, at the time I’m ready to hear it. Every time I watch Field of Dreams and see how The Voice speaks to Ray and how Ray responds (both in compulsion and frustration), all I can think is, “Yep, that’s exactly how God works.”
Like The Voice, The Holy Spirit often leaves us guessing. He leads people not by convincing but rather provoking to do things that make no sense — like build a baseball diamond right in the middle of a cornfield. The Spirit doesn’t merely point us in the right (albeit bizarre) direction; he gives us the courage to go there. Or, as Ray puts it, “Until I heard The Voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.”
One key lesson for Ray is that his journey is not just about him reaching his necessary healing, but also helping others reach theirs. I’ve found that the only way God often gets me to help others in the first place is to cause me to initially think these people were meant for my journey, rather than me for theirs. We each love to see ourselves as the lead in Our Story, but The Voice likes to cast us as the supporting catalyst in other people’s stories.
The Voice doesn’t call you to your bliss, but to other’s burdens. It doesn’t call you to your dreams; it calls you to ministry. It calls you to your life’s true purpose — which, by the way, both your passions and your reason are distracting you from. That’s why it takes supernatural guidance to lead you there.
Much like Ray, one of the biggest struggles we have is in wondering why The Spirit doesn’t speak more clearly. Why can’t God just make his desires and intentions plain? In Ray’s case, had The Voice laid out the path upfront, it’s unlikely that Ray would’ve even let him finish explaining it. The Voice’s authority and purpose can only become clear in the context of the pursuit, not prior to it.
The people that Ray has been led to help end up receiving the very benefit of the field’s mystical powers that Ray has longed for. But he’s left in the bleachers — not even on the bench — watching and not participating. When he’s not invited to join the others on the field, his anger and frustration explode at Joe, one of the field’s beneficiaries:
RAY: No, wait, I have done everything that I’ve been asked to do! I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it; and I haven’t once asked, “What’s in it for me?”
JOE: What are you saying, Ray?
RAY: I’m saying . . . what’s in it for me?
JOE: Is that why you did this? For you?
The Voice knows what we need more than we do. That’s why we should trust it.
And of course that final shot, from who Ray is with on the field to what sprawls out from it deep across the horizon, is the image of what ultimately happens when we listen to The Voice, and obey. It’s what reconciliation looks like. It’s an image of what The Voice has done with Ray’s life, and it’s a vision of what God wants to do with ours.