I remember being in Sunday School when I was six or seven. The teacher was a woman my grandma’s age. She tried to explain to a handful of young kids that Jesus spoke to her, even though she didn’t hear an audible voice. I was a bit skeptical, but suspected that Mrs. Creighton had a special friendship with God. It makes more sense to me, now, of course. I have learned that God can speak to us if we take the time to communicate with Him by reading His word and praying.
Over the past seven years, God’s call has become increasingly clear to me. That is how long it has been since I began to sense that God wanted me to teach and write. The more I have applied myself to doing this, the more evident God’s call has become. I used to describe the “nudging” of the Holy Spirit, when I sensed there was something God wanted me to do. But as I’ve gotten older, the “Voice” has become more distinct.
The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
A few years ago, I was having a bit of a tantrum with God over this “singleness” situation. I was telling Him that it wasn’t okay if I didn’t get married and have children. I didn’t believe that He wanted me to have what I wanted, and I didn’t know how to handle the grief. In the midst of this I was praying, and His words hit me like a brick: “My grace is sufficient for you.” Not long after that, I had a similar experience. I was getting ready to sit down to work on writing my book, and I was feeling overwhelmed. I knew I couldn’t possibly be good enough for the task. Then I heard, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” That time, I went right for my Bible. I had to look in the concordance to find the verses in 2 Corinthians 12. I was so struck that I sat down and began writing. What else can I do but share the lessons that God teaches me?
This week, God’s speaking to me did not take the form of Scripture. I was feeling discouraged because, once again, I stuck my foot in my mouth. I communicate too much; statistically, I’m going to end up saying something stupid. Tuesday night I was wallowing in self-pity. I had fallen into the line of thinking that no one will ever accept me the way that I am, with this “character flaw.” A thought came out of the blue: “You will never be accepted for who you are by others until you learn to accept others for who they are.” I was taken aback because I didn’t really think this idea had come from my own wallowing mind. I grabbed my notebook and wrote it down. Did God just give me that? I needed to test it against Scripture.
The first thing that came to mind was The Golden Rule. It seemed to fit the idea of treating others how I would want to be treated. Then I thought of Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. I felt the Spirit’s hand of conviction on my heart. I was instantly reminded of my tendency to judge others. I also tend to be impatient and intolerant. The hypocrisy within me became so clear. For so long, I have been trying to control my behavior, but what I really need to work on is my heart. If my heart is truly filled with the love that Jesus commands me to have, what comes out of my mouth will reflect that. (Matthew 15:10-20)
Oh come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
Over the years, most of God’s communication with me has been gradual. He tends to reinforce to me what I already know, pushing me to apply it in my life. As a result, it surprises me when God introduces a big idea. A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting in Wednesday morning chapel at work when it hit me: God wants me to go to seminary. I can’t explain why it was so clear to me, but as the speaker gave a devotional on the reasons we fail to obey God’s command to be leaders, it was as though she was speaking directly to me.
You may wonder, if I can’t explain where the idea came from, how do I know that it was from God? I want to say, “I just do.” But, I am testing it with prayer. Also, I’ve noticed that my moments of doubt are not doubt of the idea, but of God. It is as though the devil is trying to make me abandon God’s calling. Sometimes I think I must be certifiably insane. But as I look back on my life of trusting Jesus, I know this is simply part of the journey. Perhaps someday I will be the one explaining to children the many ways that God can speak to us without us ever hearing His voice. His sheep know His voice when they don’t hear it!