The voices in our head, especially the repetitive ones we’ve lived with since childhood, are loud and clear about what we are supposed to be doing. They constitute the great “shoulds” of our lives, because they are still trying to get us to make up for the problems we had obeying our parents and teachers in our early childhood. If there’s anger in us, too, its voice is loud and clear. “This person__________!(fill in the blank) And fear, it’s voice wipes out everything else. Nothing co-exists with fear. These are our own powerful interior voices built up in us over a lifetime trying to keep us on track as we understood to be an American as children.
God’s voice, on the other hand, is like a “gentle whisper” or “a still small voice” compared to these other interior voices. It is the voice that, if we even hear it, we often say an immediate “No!” or, “I couldn’t do that!” because it whispers to us of new directions, new ways of thinking about ourselves, new things to do. That’s before we know God’s voice and its wonderful and benign influence in our lives. God, after all, is trying to lead us deeper into our true selves, so He often offers invitations(i.e. seeds in the parables) to the things that will offer us fulfillment, peace, joy and love. He knows us so well that He knows exactly the path we need to take in order to live out His created vision for us, away from our own self image, away from the influence of our culture, away from the world. And we so resist!
“That wasn’t what I wanted!” “That’s for John, not me!” “I can’t! I won’t do that!” It simply doesn’t fit the self-image that we have been building since our childhood which is based on the world’s ways and on our own damaged view of ourselves. I just don’t think we ever get the parents that would love us as we need to be loved, so there is some damage along the way to every child, even in a good family. If there is abuse or neglect, then the self-image is even worse.
We usually don’t recognize that it is God’s voice that we are rejecting. We don’t care where that subversive voice comes from, we just aren’t going to do what it says. And so we stay stuck where we are. And some people stay there for a lifetime. But we are created to evolve into our full selves, our true selves, how God created us to be. And as long as we stay in our own self-image which was created or imposed in us by the world in which we live, we will not have a prayer of reaching our full potential.
How does God speak? To Gary Chapman, pastor and author of ”God Speaks Your Love Language,” He speaks in five languages of love, “#1 Words of Affirmation, #2 Quality Time, #3 Gifts, #4 Gifts of Service and #5 Physical Touch.” Each of us speaks a different love language, so God speaks to each of us differently. And we receive God’s love and direction better when it comes in our own love language. How do you receive God’s voice or presence or gifts or touch?
I know that for me, I have heard His voice as if it were out loud or at least underlined in my mind at least three times. From “I have an agenda for my life” to “How can you say you love God when you can’t love your mother?” to “if you can just hold all possible outcomes equally,” each of these ideas spoken in my mind have changed my life. First, I had to find out in my early 40’s who was the “I” in me who had an agenda and what that agenda was. I had thought that I was here to serve everyone else without a thought to myself. I started asking this, “What do I really want to do?”
Then I had to figure out how to love my mother who never got who I was. Fortunately, as much as I tried and failed to love her, God eventually surrounded us with a cloud of love on a railroad platform and from then on our relationship was forever positive and loving.
The last one, “If you can just hold all possible outcomes equally,” came when my husband’s cancer returned three months after he was declared cancer-free; it helped me step back from my fears about his dying into a place of peace and faith. When I could hold all the outcomes equally, I was given a gift of faith so wide and deep that nothing, not even his death, could shake me off that rock!
More often than these voiced directions, I get impressions, a suggestion of taking another way home, or calling someone now, or what to eat, or what to do next. I get ideas for my writing almost anywhere—they just pop into my mind in the car, while I am writing, or with someone else. I jot them down immediately before I forget them, or I send myself an email with the topic or idea. I have had dreams, especially two that defined my purpose in writing this blog and my books: “to connect the dots” between Jesus’ teachings and 21st century living and “to make the kingdom real.”
Sometimes, a friend or acquaintance has suggested a book that the Lord wants me to read and I do it. I hear from readers that what I am writing about was just in Sunday’s sermon at their church—the Holy Spirit underlines a theme for us so that we hear it two or three times within a couple of days.
Other times, I am touched by what I read, and often these days, brought to tears as I realize how God is blessing me now. Or I am aware of His presence, a heightened sense of Him right with me.
Another way I have experienced God’s truth to me is through my body. If I look at what is happening in my body, If I assume it is a metaphor through which God is trying to show me something He wants me to know about myself, then I look at symptoms in my body differently. Am I having back problems? I ask if I am having trouble standing straight on the truth about me or do I feel supported? With my knees, I ask if I am having trouble with being flexible. With my feet, I ask if I am resisting some truth that I can’t stand. Each symptom raises a different question in me and a dialogue with God about what He might be trying to tell me. I’ve come to understand that if I can address the underlying causes of my physical symptoms and deal with them, then the symptoms often go away.
The one thing I know for sure is that following His voice means that I will be affirmed in some way and that it works out for everyone involved in the words or action in the end. As you take a step a bit out of your comfort zone, it will work out. And the more often you do it, the less you will resist His voice, until there comes a time when you can’t wait to hear Him and do what He suggests.
Do you experience other ways that God speaks or suggests things to you? How often are you aware of His invitations and suggestions? I think that He showers us with blessings and grace and help throughout our days, but we are only aware of maybe a few things that He is offering us. The more we acknowledge God’s presence and help and support in our lives, the more we live in gratitude for all He has given, the more we are apt to notice all His gifts and His ideas for us. And when we do, we are overwhelmed with gratitude for all He is giving us.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do you hear God speaking to you in your thoughts? In your life? How do you recognize His voice? Do you follow what He suggests? Do you notice His help and support throughout your days? What is it like for you to follow His lead? [Just ponder the one or ones that seem to call you.]
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who hear and heed God’s voice. May we embrace all His help and blessings, support and love for us. May we abide in His love and grace.
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. June 6th is titled “Be Still.”
 1 Kings 19:12 NIV
 1 Kings 19:12 KJV
 Gary Chapman, God Speaks your Love Language: How to Experience and Express God’s Love, Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2018, Table of Contents.