Once we decide to Love God with all of ourselves and to follow Jesus, the first skill we need to develop is listening to the Indwelling Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and needs to be listened to in order to bring forward His wisdom into our lives. Our minds are so loud and clear about what we should be doing that it is hard hear the innate Word of God in our minds. How do we distinguish between the mind’s loud offerings and God’s quiet ones? As Elijah found in 1 Kings 19:12, God’s voice in not in the wind or fire, it’s not loud and clear; it is His “still small voice” also translated as “a gentle whisper” in the NIV Blble.
How in the world can we hear God’s gentle whisper to us when our minds control our lives?
Here’s one way: lectio divina. In lectio you read a short verse in the Bible, slowly, three times, each time listening for the word or phrase that stands out for you in the reading. Then, ponder or journal about the word or phrase. The idea, object or verse, is brought to you from the Indwelling Spirit of God and is what He wants you to hear today in this passage. As we ponder or journal about it, we will hear what the Lord wants us to hear this day in this passage. The pondering/journaling will help flesh out what He is saying to you.
A second way: we need to calm the mind’s ever-present voice is to become an observer of our thoughts, to step back from their influence on us. And how do we do that? We learn how to meditate or to do Centering Prayer—a Christian form of meditation. We learn to sit in the quiet and just observe what our mind is doing and not get excited or anxious about what it is telling us. As we practice meditation, if we will just step back from our thoughts and figure out their source, then we are taking the first step back from being influenced by our minds. In my case, I found that my Mom and Dad were the source of all the pressure to be on time, if not early. My Aunt Grace could not stay on a long distance phone call even if I was paying for it for more that 2 minutes. And my parents were big on the phrase: waste not, want not. After all the three of them had lived through the depression, so they didn’t spend one cent more than they had to. Those are just two examples, from my life, but there were many more about how to dress, how to think, how to be poised in all situations, etc..
As I reflected on all these influences—familial and cultural—I began to back away from their influence. And I began to hear much quieter God’s word in my mind, like “I have an agenda for my life.” This thought shocked me. All I had ever wanted to be was a wife and mother. And there was God telling me that there was more I was to do and care about. Because of that thought, I began to ask myself this question in every situation: What do I really want to do?
It’s only when we can hear and obey what God says to us, that we are truly begin to follow Jesus. It’s the beginning of a real period of growth away from the world’s influence and towards our real, true self, towards God. It takes a long time for all the issues—sufferings, challenges, wrongs that we have done—to surface and to be offered up to God for healing. But gradually, we begin to feel the difference in ourselves—lighter, freer of so many burdens, and we can watch our ability to love and forgive grow. Remember that Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden light”(Matthew 11:28-30) We can truly experience the truth in that statement when we follow His suggestions to us.
There is a spill-over affect from learning how to observe our thoughts in addition to being able to hear God’s soft whisper. We are no longer captive to them, no longer driven by the “shoulds” that we have heard since our early childhood. We can then make different choices, knowing that we’re following a deeper part of ourselves, a truer part of ourselves, actually obeying God.
And then we know that we are “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty we are free at last!” as the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. exclaimed. We are freed of the burdens this world puts on us. We are free of our own sorry self-image. We are free to pursue the purpose that God set for us as He created us. We’ve let go of all that the world would use to confine us. Now we know freedom! peace! ease! All produced in us when we follow Jesus to the best of our abilities!
- I am giving away a 10-week journaling guide to Jesus’s Two Great Commandments. If you are interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send it to you, free of charge.
- My latest books, “Called to Help the Poor and Needy” and “A Study Guide to the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount” are now in bookstores and on line. The first is about the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible which detail God’s instructions for caring for those in need. The second is a journaling/pondering guide to Jesus’s most complete sermon.
Questions to ponder over the week: Can I hear God’s “still, small voice” in my own mind? And do I obey what I hear? Have I tried lectio divina? And found it helpful in discerning God’s will for me? Am I willing to let God lead me along the paths He sets for me? Or am I contend to just believe in God?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who follow His lead in all that we do. May we seek His advice in everything we do. May we faithfully love God.
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