I heard the voice of God in 1993. At least, I believe it was God.
I had just completed a 6-mile run in a local park, the weather was overcast and misty. As I walked slowly to cool off, everything around me went quiet. A voice came into my head, one I swear to you was not my own. It instructed me to take a series of steps that would lead me to move half-way across the country and reconnect with the woman who would become my wife.
After that day, I thought the voice might come again, but I have not heard it since—well, at least not that clearly and distinctly. I sometimes wonder why, but perhaps it was only to give me a needed course correction in life, through a message I could not ignore. It put me on a very different life path than the one I was on.
I was reminded of this event while reading Father Richard Rohr’s new book The Universal Christ, specifically in a section titled “The Voice That Is Great Within Us.” There, he makes a claim that stopped me in my tracks:
God speaks to you through your own thoughts.
He goes on to explain these are not the everyday wanderings of our mind but “intuitive truth.” It’s the voice within us that “prompts us toward compassion instead of hatred, forgiveness instead of resentment, generosity instead of stinginess, bigness instead of pettiness.” It’s the voice that propels us to both be good and do good.
Yet most of us are not willing to call the voice within “God,” because it feels too much like our own thoughts and feelings. Rohr writes that:
Most of us have been trained to write off these inner voices as mere emotion, religious conditioning, or psychological manipulation. Perhaps they sometimes are, but often they are not.
Rohr tells us that “we often overplay the distance and distinction between God and humanity.” God is closer to us than we imagine. He points out that “saints like Augustine, Teresa of Avila, and Carl Jung seem to fully equate the discovery of their own souls with the very discovery of God.”
This is not an immediate process, it comes with our own spiritual maturity. Rohr says that “It takes much of our life, much lived experience, to trust and allow such a process. But when it comes, it will feel like a calm and humble ability to quietly trust yourself and trust God at the same time. Isn’t that what we all want?”
Who’s to say that God can’t be found in our own souls? As has been said here before, God is not a being, God is being itself and may permeate our lives in ways we don’t fully acknowledge. Rohr points out “the soul’s depth is infinite,” so vast that we can never fully grasp all that it encompasses.
How do we know we’re really hearing the voice of God?
Rohr gives us three key pointers to help us discern the voice of God:
- Anything said with too much bravado, overassurance, or with any need to control or impress another, is neverthe voice of God within you.
- If any thought feels too harsh, shaming, or diminishing of yourself or others, it is not likely the voice of God.
- If something comes toward you with love and grace and can pass through you and toward others with love and grace, you can trust it as the voice of God.
He also asks us to consider: “Why do humans so often presume that shaming voices are always from God, and grace voices are always the imagination?”
The Divine may be more a part of our everyday lives than we imagine, just waiting for our recognition and acknowledgement. As a friend told Roth:
We must listen to what is supporting us. We must listen to what is encouraging us. We must listen to what is urging us. We must listen to what is alive in us.
While I have never heard a voice quite so clear and distinct as the one I heard in that park so many years ago, I have heard the quieter voice within, nudging me, guiding me. I am guessing that you have, too. As Roth points out, it is a voice we should listen to. “We need the courage and humility to trust the voice of God within.”