A friend or relative’s name comes to mind. When you call you find out that they needed to talk to you right then. Someone is almost annoyingly insistent that you read this book or see that movie. You feel that you should take a different route home without knowing why. Words drop into your mind that are unlike anything you have thought before. You sense that it’s time for a change, but you’re not even sure what that change should be. A dream reminds you of something that is important. You hear of an idea or a book or a person and something in you resonates with what you are hearing.
There’s a surprise, an unexpected blessing in what is happening. There’s the beauty of a sunset that stops you in your tracks. Or a field of lilies by the roadside. These are some of the subtle ways that the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
Louder, even clearer messages can also be from God. A flu forces you to rest when you’ve not had time for rest in your busy schedule. You have a series of “accidents” that cause you to wonder what is going on. A loved one or a friend’s illness brings you to spend a lot of time caring for this person, when there was little time in your life for him or her. In this latest economic crisis the loss of a job causes a complete reevaluation of how you were living.
Subtle or insistent God’s voice in our lives brings change either on the physical plane, in say simplifying our lives or listening more to our body, or in the emotional arena as we learn a better way of dealing with our “issues,” or in a spiritual sense learning to spend more time with God or mentally opening up to an expanded way of thinking. These all happen if we pay attention to what God is telling us.
How do we know that it is God’s Spirit that is talking? People in church circles use the word, discernment, to describe the process of discovering what God is asking us to do. This can be a very complicated, drawn out process or a simpler one depending of the weight given the decision. The most important thing in discerning is to build up a body of experience of God’s presence in our lives so that we can distinguish the Spirit’s voice from all the other interior voices that push and pull us in all different directions.
The first thing to know is that God’s voice is the quiet one. In 1 Kings 19 Elijah learns that God is not in the mighty wind or in an earthquake or in a fire, but comes in a whisper. I think this is so surprising from one as mighty as God, that his voice is such a quiet one. If it were a thundering roar, we could easily hear it. But with a whisper, we have to be still and quiet inside to hear it. For us to be still and quiet we have to give a lot less power to the angry and fearful voices inside us. We have to be quiet enough, peaceful enough to hear that quiet murmuring voice. And we have to stop talking all the time in prayer in order to listen to him.
God already knows what we want and what we need. But there is a lot that Spirit wants to say to us, to bless us and challenge us and gift us, to direct us and to transform us and to enlighten us, if we will only listen. I think there are so many times in our days that the Father and Mother of us all reaches out to us, maybe hundreds of messages just for you or for me. The more we recognize God’s voice and heed what it says to us, the more support and love we will feel, the more encouraged and directed we will be towards our own true selves, the more we will have to give out to others.