My husband and I spent more than a few months apart thanks to the U.S. Marine Corps when we were first married. We wouldn’t have asked for that opportunity, but what we learned from it resonates more than 50 years later.
It was before the days of Face Time, Skype, cell phones, and laptops, so usually our communication was limited to daily letters where we poured out our hearts and thoughts to each other. Each day I eagerly waited for the mailman to come hoping to receive a letter from my love. Those days were agonizing because I missed his voice, the time we spent together, and the warmth of his arms around me.
During the longest separation of fourteen months, a new anxiety gripped me one day when I realized I could no longer be sure of the sound of his voice in my head.
I started practicing and imagining his voice saying the words he wrote in his letters. That helped, but often I wanted to hear his voice again so I could hold it close in my mind and heart.
That’s how we feel when we love someone deeply and we are separated in time and space from one another.
Few things can do more to brighten a day than the sound of a familiar voice of someone we love who also loves us.
If this is true and I believe it is, what gets in the way of listening for and to the Lord’s voice?
When we become one of His children, the Word clearly says He gives us a new heart. I think He also gives us new ears to be able to hear Him. Perhaps the key question is whether or not we believe He wants to speak to us.
Certainly, we learn early in our relationship with God that He speaks to us through His Word. He speaks through creation as well. If we are tuned in to Him, the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, the song of a bird, the cadence of rain pelting against a window, or the sound of the wind in the chimney speaks to us of One greater than ourselves who created it all.
His desire is clear. God has shown us in a myriad of ways since creation that He is speaking.
I think the key question is whether or not we desire to hear from Him and if we believe He desires to speak to us.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Of course I want to hear from Him!”
What I know and have experienced is that my desire is to hear from Him, but too often my agenda, my schedule; my noisy world gets in the way.
Most of us can say there are times when we are reading the Word that we are reading the words, but not really tuning in, listening for and hearing His voice.
Too often we are not even listening during our times of prayer with Him. When we don’t, it’s like picking up a phone and calling a friend and telling her or him everything that is going on with us, what we are dealing with, what we hope for, and then hanging up without hearing a response. How rude!
Listening to someone who loves us and whom we love is one of the highest forms of respect.
One discipline I have used to practice training my ear to hear has been journaling my conversation with Him and then listening and noting what I sense as His response in red ink. I still recall the first time I sensed and believed He wanted to really speak to me after reading a book where someone shared about her growing intimacy with the Lord as a result of taking time to wait and listen. I wanted that too.
My belief that He would actually speak to me was admittedly shaky back then. I confessed that to Him as I wrote my thoughts and feelings in that January stillness. And how did He respond to my doubt?
Softly I sensed Him clearly speaking to my heart, “I’m always waiting. I long to listen to you and hold you in my arms.”
My heart leaped as I sensed Him inviting me to come closer and to hear the words my heart so much needed to hear as I read His Word and prayed. He wanted a conversation with me and once I really understood, our relationship was forever changed.
Listening takes practice. We are not naturally good at it.
The practice is important in the quiet times we spend with Him so we know His voice so well, we can hear Him when our world is nosily crashing down around us.
Max Lucado wrote an allegorical story entitled “The Song of the King”. It is a powerful story, which time and space does not allow me to retell, but the key understanding comes in the lines at the end.
A knight has been seeking his way through a dangerous forest in order to be considered fit to gain the hand of a princess to wed. He is allowed one companion for the journey. He chooses wisely. His companion plays the same song on his flute as that of the king who is playing from the palace wall. That leads him safely through the forest and he gains the hand of the princess.
When the knight is asked what helped him through the forest, he responds, “As we journeyed, he played. I learned your song so well that though a thousand false flutes tried to hide your music. I could still hear you. I knew your song and followed it.”
In the midst of our daily schedule, are we tuning in, listening to the sound of His voice?