Faith, life, relationships, Uncategorized
Comments 11

When God Sounds A Lot Like You {demystifying what it means to ‘hear from god’}

“God intended, out of the goodness of his heart, to be lavish in his revelation.”

{from Isaiah 42, the Message)

First warm day finds me in the garden.

Snow clings yet in patches where the sun cannot reach. I don’t venture far beyond the patio, this season of my limitation (although I rarely acquiesce to the idea of having a disability), and this still-healing leg keep me near a chair or a table to lean on.

There’s enough work to attend to right outside the back door. Winter’s left behind her customary mess: molded leaves, sandy dirt, broken twigs and pine needles huddle in cracks and corners. A stray child’s shoe, a nerf bullet, a juice box… all usual culprits in the disarray that is the garden in March.

The rake, wood handle smooth in my palm, draws it’s tines through the piles, across the surface of the cement. It scuttles and scrapes and picks at the stubborn filth of winter’s stay.
And I sigh, a sound I wish was elation at the coming of spring, but it comes out heavy.

I stand in the sunshine, lean my weight from leg to rake and feel older than my years.

I sighed away the feelings he couldn’t hear me speak. I had tried, in a fit of emotion to get him to hear. I don’t emote often; I don’t stand in the kitchen and cry for all to see. For some reason, my emotions are always too far deep inside for display so I am left to wrestle with them privately on some internal stage… perhaps you’re like that too?

But this weekend had been different. Perhaps I was tired, or leaky, but the feelings and the tears were too visible, too much for his comfort and the resistance was two-footed and staunch. So we argued. And it’s a strange thing to argue after what we’ve been through, this near-death life that makes us gingerly hold each other loosely in palms of gratitude. It feels dirty or incongruous, like when you fight in front of your kids or shout over the candle at a restaurant table.

It leaves you soul-raw and tired. And sighing heavy in the buoyant light of day.

As I did just that, I looked down and spotted my oregano. Blue-green round leaves covered a mound of roots and stems. Not satisfied with pushing forth from winter-packed soil, this herb was truly growing, single-handedly announcing spring to my backyard. Above the velvet of life near the soil, dozens of stems, brittle-brown stuck straight out of the plant. These stems held the flower heads last summer, dusky and purple and scented of honey and spice. Now, they served no purpose.

This isn’t pruning, my thoughts instructed as I reached for my clippers, this is removing death.

I grabbed bunches of the stems and clipped at the base, freeing the plant from last year.

And the silent word of God came through in my thoughts and the small clipping sounds of the bi-pass blades in my hand: sometimes forgiveness is removing, freeing.

I finished my small work of farming the oregano plant. All gardens need tending, I heard as I swooped up the old growth and tossed it in the compost bin. And I looked at my green tuft of oregano and felt a breeze that was warm, a gift after months of cold, winter winds.

And I stood alone, unaided by cane or rake handle, and sighed a little lighter.

***

We’ve been talking at church this month about this: Listen.

It’s been an interesting series as we’ve considered listening to our critics, to the truth that comes from others and from God. Joe, our pastor, demystified the question: How do I know if I’m hearing the voice of God?

We have these perceptions, thanks to Hollywood and clapboard churches, that the voice of God is deep and loud and only uses the Queen’s English — full of thee’s and thou-shalt-nots.

And I’m sure that the voice of judgement will come as thunder claps and windstorm-lound. But the voice of instruction? The voice of love from Father to child? What does that sound like?

I have always struggled with the phrases that begin with, “God told me…” or “God spoke to me in the midst of my prayer time…” or  “God wants me to tell you…”.

I don’t hear God that way. I’ve heard thoughts that I know aren’t mine…I think. I have ideas that I know aren’t mine…I think.

So what does the voice of God sound like? He sounds a lot like you.

Yes, like you to you and me to me.

And he always agrees with his word, the Bible. There is no new revelation, only the opening of our understanding is new, freshly unwrapped. The truth that comes from God is unchanging but always new to us. That’s the beauty of hearing from God.

And so, in the garden, in the scraping of the rake and the March wind whistling in my ears, there is a silence that affords me to lean in closely and feel the vibration of the voice of God.

***

How about you? How does God speak to us? Why should we listen? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Linked with Michelle at Graceful, L.L. Barkat at Seedlings in Stone and Laura Boggess at the Wellspring

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11 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this thoughtful post. How nice to find your blog today on WordPress’s gardening site. I clicked on the link right away, because hearing the voice of God is something I’ve struggled with a lot in my life. (I guess we all do, but we don’t always tell each other that. Thanks for saying it. 🙂 ) I guess my biggest question is this: You say God’s voice always agrees with the Bible, but how do we know in the first place that the Bible is God’s voice? Where does that assurance ultimately come from?

    • Hi Sharon!
      Nice to “meet you” — I’m glad you came and read and replied.

      One way I could introduce myself is that I’m a life-long Christian. This doesn’t mean that it’s been a relationship without its problems, however. I doubt and think and second-guess more than I like to admit. Your question is fantastic and one I’ve wrestled with, too. I think we’d almost rather have a booming voice from the heaven’s declare “this is the way you should go, and listen to me, because I’m the voice of God!”, because then we couldn’t argue (however we may think we’re crazy).

      I think it comes down to choosing to believe that the Bible is God’s word and voice. This is a choice of faith, I admit, more so than proof based on unmitigated fact. True, much has been proven by archaeologists, etc., that prove the veracity of the ancient texts, etc., but still, each individual can make a choice, and mine is that if I believe in God and his creative and sustaining power, (another choice of faith) then I will choose to believe he’s capable of preserving the truth of his word in scripture, too. I think that when we choose that, then our understanding of the relevant truth in ancient scripture is opened. My assurance personally has come in pieces and through situations but also in seeing my life, and the lives of others, transformed by the hope of Jesus as presented in the Bible. I know who I am apart from it and I’d rather not be that person. This isn’t hard theology, just an expression of my experience.

      Also, whenever I’ve had a “leading” or a thought that I believe is from God, it always leads me to do the better thing, like forgive or stop judging or release anger; these may be the harder things, but always better, for me and for others. This has helped me to trust this voice and his word more, because it assures me he really does care.

      Thanks for asking, that was good to think through! I hope I gave an answer that gives a bit of understanding 🙂
      bless you!

      • Thank you so much for your thoughtful answer. Maybe this is kind of where I come out on the question, too: we hear a voice as God’s (in the Bible or in our minds or elsewhere) because we recognize something incredibly good and compelling about that voice. We recognize it as the voice of One we want to follow. I like that you say this recognition is an act of faith. I think that’s so true. It all ultimately comes down to faith, to what, in our heart of hearts, we hold to be true and most precious and worth seeking. Though I guess we’ll never stop discovering more aspects of that truth, ones that surprise us and help us continue to grow.

        Thanks again for your response!

  2. Interestingly enough, God’s voice sounds eerily like my wife’s!

    God’s word is written within. When we seek Him in ernest, we find wisdom. I think the thoughts are motivated by the One we now belong to. I also think when we don’t pay attention or listen to His word, the scenarios in our lives get louder and manifest themselves in difficulties that force us to hear His truth or purpose.

    I’m praying for your leg and family.

    It ain’t the Garden Of Eden is it?

    • Floyd, God must know you need an audible voice of truth! Oh, sometimes God sounds like my husband, and even my kids… these people who know me well and my particular favorite sins…. Thank you for your prayers — I go to see the orthopedic dr. in a couple of weeks — hoping no more surgery, Alyssa

  3. thank you for speaking your truth, even when it is raw from recent fighting, for that is how we will grow from each other, when truth is allowed to free. I agree, that His voice comes to me in ways different than others, but you are right, most times it sounds a lot like me.

    • Tara,
      My pastor suggested it in this exact phrase “He sounds a lot like you” — I’ve never felt I quite had the “knack” of hearing God’s voice and wrestled with doubts about how others seemed to be so conversant with him! This has been an area of Christianity that causes me to stumble, but knowing that God is so intimately acquainted with me that he gently enters my thoughts and steered me toward his truth is so helpful. I think I’ll spend some time in Romans 12 where it talks about the transforming of our minds and receiving the thoughts of God…. Bless you Tara today,
      Alyssa

  4. Your leg may be slowing you down, but you are moving.

    Your writing is moving. And still I find rest here, as I hear the voice of Jesus in the snipping and the pruning.

    • Nicely phrased. And thanks:)

      Nice to meet you- your blue heron piece got me thinking. Mine was a robin, sitting on the branch watching me write–smaller, less mystical, but I am a small and average person, so it’s fitting. 🙂

  5. Laura says

    Can I just say I love to read your blog…I see others do to. This may be God’s voice too. His voice of encouragement. Thanks for writing about this, I to share your same thoughts and belief on the subject of hearing God speaking to me. This writing made me think of the old hymn “In the garden.”

  6. I know that feeling you describe–how it feels to argue after being molded so close together. Isn’t it crazy? That we remain these imperfect things? That no matter what we learn, how hard we try, we will always, always need Jesus. So grateful for my Savior.

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