The Every Day Art of Listening

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John 10:27:  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Do you remember the last time you heard the voice of Jesus? Maybe it was two minutes ago or maybe you are not actually sure if you ever have. Hearing God can seem out of reach for many because it has sometimes been seen as mysterious or reserved for mystics and the exceptionally spiritual.

Yet, I believe that we are all experiencing God’s voice all the time. The disconnect is most often that we don’t recognize His voice. We fail to listen. I love the tagline from the movie August Rush because it describes this reality perfectly: “The music is all around us, all we have to do is listen.”

I am grateful for the practice of listening to God. In fact, I find the life of walking with Jesus, listening to “the music”, to be the most adventurous life that could possibly be imagined. Everything speaks. Sings. Resonates. God is always surprising and revealing. Enticing and delighting. I feel like a child full of wonder as I play.

Often, I feel like I am putting puzzles together, piece by piece, as God shares deeply about Himself, myself, and others. I believe everyone listens to God in different ways, and that God also speaks to each of us in different ways. This is an experience of vibrant relationship, not a system of rules. It’s really more art than science.

Sometimes, God will paint a picture for me over the course of several weeks during which I may see a theme highlighted repeatedly in scripture readings or sermons, through conversation with friends, or dreams. I may see themes in movies, or hear something in a song at just the right time. It is not often that the message is conveyed in a dramatic way, but that God is gently nudging me to pay attention to something that might seem random were it not for the timing and repetition. I went through a time period where I would often see bald eagles at significant moments. At other times, it was butterflies, or rainbows. Sometimes, it is a number or color that represents something to me.

Early in my walk with the Lord, I began to journal extensively and developed a habit of paying attention to small details in the normalcy of every day life. I began to see patterns emerging and I came to realize that God was actually interested in intimately communicating with me. In fact, it took a couple of years to get over the surprise of that reality and learn to enjoy the conversation.

What I’ve learned in this way of listening so far is that God wants me to succeed. He really, really does. God is not toying with me or withholding anything that I need. There are no secrets here. There is only a loving Father revealed through a living Son expressed through a leading Spirit.

Hearing the voice of God is normal and good. Sometimes there can be a fear of hearing amiss and being led astray if we truly offered ourselves up to listening. And while it is true that we learn to discern our thoughts from God’s voice and other voices that mean to cause us harm, we need not be afraid. God is able to keep us in this adventure.

And what an adventure it is. God tells us practical things like how to pray, what to say, where to go and who to see. But, the more amazing words God speaks are about Who God is and Who we are. To pray for someone and hear the heart of God for them or to see what God sees for them is an experience of intimacy and joy wrapped up in a compassion far beyond my own.

And really, this is all about intimacy as we come to know Jesus Who already knows us. Following and obedience are just natural results of this kind of knowledge, birthed out of the song Jesus sings over us along the way.

Does this adventure call to you? Do you hear a song in the distance? I invite you to play. To simply ask without forgetting to receive. To stop. To breathe. To see. To hear. To listen. Listen. Listen.

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Heather is an ordained minister and Master of Divinity student at Asbury Theological Seminary. Her work in ministry flows from a deep desire for transformative intimacy with God and others, and includes healing prayer and mentoring for those seeking to develop their spiritual gifts and callings. She also loves to create through music and writing.

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