I was raised in the church. Baptized as a baby, went was dragged to mass as a teenager, spent some time away from church, and came back as an adult. I heard message after message, but never really listened. Perhaps, it was my mistaken view of who God is. Perhaps I never knew how to listen. Perhaps I was too busy designing my own plans for my life.
Whether I am willing to admit it or not, God has been guiding me for my whole life. I often wonder why I couldn’t see it before now, but I already know that answer – I was hearing God’s whisper but not listening to it. God was speaking in a whisper. Elijah shows us this in 1 Kings 19.
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. – 1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV
We have to choose to listen to what He says. We have to actively pursue His guidance through the good and the bad. But how?
There is a fine line between hearing and listening. Anyone who has ever been asked to clean their room as a child can attest to that. We all hear mom give the dreaded command, but how often do we follow through? We can see, hear and touch our mothers and we have a hard time listening. How can we listen to God when we are in a place where none of those apply?
I have asked God for countless things whether it is a child-like prayer for a new bike, a teenage prayer that promised life as a nun, or an adult prayer for healing. But have I actually listened for the answer? The truth is I had never taken the time to listen. I tell the kids I teach all the time that we need to quiet our hearts because God speaks in a whisper. Why have I had such trouble following that advice myself?
Being still is not one of my best abilities. I have to dedicate a lot of focus on the act of being still. So, I adjust my stillness. I practice in my car on the way to work. I sing a worship song or two, start a prayer, and then focus on listening. And He’s speaking to me. In a whisper. So what do I do now?
“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” – James 1:22
As I have learned with my mother, listening is more than just hearing. It is doing. When God speaks, He expects a response – and an obedient one at that! I have been working on the active part of listening to God over the last few years. It hasn’t been easy for me, but it has been worth it.
He has asked that I step out of my comfort zone for a few things, like joining a prayer ministry (And praying. Out loud. In front of people.) and going back to school after a 20-year hiatus (which He has provided the means to do). But the growth that I have experienced from listening had far outweighed those uncomfortable feelings.
This is what happens when we listen to God; we grow. And it’s amazing.