For some time now, the motto of my denomination, the United Church of Christ, has been “God is still speaking.” This leaves us to wonder: how do we listen?
It’s such an important question.
What is God’s voice like? Is it still and small? The sound of sheer silence? Is it an “aha” moment when we needed it? Since we’re all made so differently, it stands to reason that the voice or leading of the Spirit will be experienced in diverse ways.
A Voice in the Night
Young Samuel in the Hebrew scriptures heard only his name being called. And he responded, “Speak now for your servant is listening.”
The Chicken Coop Connection
A friend of mine hears the Spirit best sitting and meditating in an old, now-cat-ridden chicken coop in her backyard. She began going there for prayer after sitting down in the coop one day and saying to God: “I’m here and I’m listening,” then remaining silent. It continues to be a place where she can listen for God’s guidance. She describes her listening technique as “tuning into God’s frequency.”
A Voicemail Blessing
I rarely have moments that I can confidently say God spoke to me. But when I do, I listen.
Last week I experienced a lot of anxiety about a routine medical test. I was starting to panic and think obsessively about it. So, I asked for a blessing — something that would help me shed my anxiety. I sat in silence, waiting. After I ended my meditation time, I checked my phone for text messages or calls I may have missed. There was a call recorded on my voicemail, one word, spoken in a women’s voice: Blessed.
I’ve worked with a lot of people in spiritual direction who had incredible stories of God’s guidance and answers to prayers. It’s a joy to hear about them, but I don’t usually have those incredible experiences. I wasn’t prepared for the very blessing I asked for that day.
And, yes, I was and am blessed with good doctors and excellent health. I can now look back on my anxiety and see what a waste it was! I’m keeping that message on my voicemail for those times when I doubt.
How Do You Listen to God?
How does the Divine communicate with you? What are some ways you are open to hearing the Spirit’s guidance? If you don’t feel this line of communication is strong enough for you, I have two suggestions:
- Ask for it. Like Samuel, say to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
- Consider ways you have felt connection with the Spirit in the past. Maybe you have been hearing a word of guidance but haven’t recognized it. Developing awareness to that connection helps you notice it when it is offered in the future.
One CaveatWe are all aware that some mental illnesses manifest themselves in people hearing God’s voice telling them to do awful things. We have to be discerning and humble about what we think we’ve heard. If it asks us to do harm in any way, it’s not God.
Put the word you get to the test. Does it violate your sense of rightness or ethics? Does it seem like something a good God would ask of you or say to you? Does it give you a sense of life? Or is it dulling to your spirit?
We all mistake our ego for God’s voice some of the time. Develop skills in noticing how your “false self” ego rears its head. God’s communication with us speaks to our higher or true self.
And when you do feel you are being guided by the Divine, trust it. We are all blessed when we listen to the healing, inspiring, and life-giving voice of God.
Want to learn more about spiritual direction? I have a new book Spiritual Direction 101: The Basics of Spiritual Guidance by Apocryphile Press that addresses many aspects of this practice. It’s available on Amazon.
Also, I enjoy emails from people who have questions about spiritual direction. I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my website www.teresablythe.net. I do have openings for spiritual direction clients if you are interested.