(This is a revised blog I wrote in 2015..)
Somehow with the overwhelm of political news, I missed the year anniversary of Maya Angelou’s death on May 28th, 2016. Maya has been an inspiration to helping me give voice to my work as a creative artist. She also endorsed my first documentary years ago, which touched me deeply.
I think of Maya Angelous’ words in her last twitter post — to listen for the voice of God– as I’m in the process of discernment for launching a new project. I recall the process of listening for God’s direction when we decided to produce our independent documentary, Boys and Men Healing from childhood sexual abuse a few years ago. I wasn’t excited about the project. In fact I dreaded facing such a difficult subject, interviewing men who had experienced such childhood trauma felt like a heavy burden. Yet, my husband feeling called to the need for such an important subject, insisted we needed to produce the film. I take such passion seriously, he has a gift of sensing the needs in the world which is important for our documentary work. However, I still prayed for months awaiting God’s direction — secretly hoping I wouldn’t end up producing the film.
During this period of discernment, we learned about of a boy in our community who had been sexually abused. It was as if God spoke into my heart with a megaphone, ‘Now!‘ As a mother and filmmaker, and wanting to be faithful to God’s will for my life, I felt I had no choice. With diligence, and passion, we proceeded with the daunting task of raising funds, developing the documentary, interviewing potential on-camera participants, and finally after three years, finishing production. Just when we thought we couldn’t raise another dime, a large sum arrived in the mail from anonymous donor covering the costs for editing the film. The documentary went on to help thousands of men abused as boys – creating a grassroots movement in the field, and providing men a vehicle to feel safe to break their silence and begin healing. Through outreach screenings, panel discussions and collaborative work with leaders in the field, we continue to work with thousands of organizations worldwide – in the United States, Europe, Israel, Cambodia, and Africa, inspiring the development of much needed resources and support systems for male survivors of abuse.
The voice of God directs us toward ways of healing and wholeness, calling us as helpers to aid in the well-being of one another. God’s voice directs us on the path of radical love, to helping the oppressed heal. We are called to become what C.S. Lewis termed, “little Christs“, but we need to listen for God’s call.
I await the voice of God guiding me in the way I should go.
I know from numerous prophets before us, that God surely speaks to us.
The great prophet Isaiah said “and when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”
Of course one of the most famous stories is when St. Paul, a Pharisee and persecutor of Jesus followers, is struck down and blinded on the road to Damascus. He hears a voice calling out to him. ““Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. And then Jesus goes on to instruct him: “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
But we still too often wonder, is really possible to hear God’s voice, to sense God’s guidance and wisdom, to be dramatically transformed by the voice of God? How can we discern God’s voice from our own imaginings, wishes or fantasies?
Through years of spiritual practice, of seeking solitude daily, I’m ever-learning d God not only speaks, but has a distinct language. As Saint Paul later said, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, communicating spiritual things by spiritual means.
Like the breaking of dawn, God’s holy language emerges from the edges of our lives, breaking through our silky silences, through the world’s glamouring noises, and through stone walls of our human will.
God’s voice is like the dove bringing an olive leaf to Noah adrift on the ark on an endless sea, assuring him of new land ahead. Just the same, God’s voice guides us in new directions to purposefulness, to a more promised land.
Unlike the world’s language that’s often seductive, demanding and untrustworthy, God’s voice is caring, gentle, directive, corrective, and life giving.
It is Good News.
God’s voice often comes to me in the form of auditory messages, images, a sensing, and impression or intuition – a gut feeling of knowing. It has come in the form of gentle inner poke, a sense that it’s time to go forward with what was a questionable plan of my own scheming, or to hold back when dangerous territory is ahead.
If I’m about to make a poor decision, I’ll sense a spiritual alarm going off in my mind and soul. Sometimes it comes as a sensation, as if someone is holding me tight, like pulling back on the reigns of a horse ready to flee. At times I sense a firm and instructive voice saying “no, don’t go that way. Or wait”. Rather than rushing ahead, I now heed the warning. Inevitably, another door, a better door opens if one closes.
The auditory voices are not like a human’s voice, but more of a spiritual hearing and sensing. As Theresa of Avila describes: “The words were very clearly formed and unmistakable, though not heard with bodily ear.”
Discerning the voice of God, Theresa of Avila described three voices we hear: our own, the voice of evil and God’s voice. She says our voices are contrived and fleeting, whereas God’s voice has authority and is enduring. The voice of evil, or the devil’s voice, she said are negative voices, troubling the soul.
St. Theresa advised us not to worry if we don’t hear the voice of God right away, but to trust in God’s time and ways. Yet, Jesus also tells us to be persistent; Knock on the door and it will be opened, seek and ye shall find.
At times, God’s voice comes as an alarm clock waking me from non-action to action – for instance, to call a friend it turns out who was in need.
Sometimes God speaks to us in dreams or in visions, setting us on new life paths.
When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams”. Numbers 12:6
After many drunken and drug drenched nights, one dark night laying down in her bed, author Anne Lamott became aware of someone in the room she knew was Jesus, “sitting on his haunches in the corner of my sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love.” This vision started her on a deep journey of spiritual transformation.
Although moved by the lives of others transformed by God, before his conversion, St. Augustine struggled with leaving his notorious, sinful life. One day sitting on a bench St. Augustine sensed God’s voice as he over heard a child chanting, “Take up and read, take up and read.” At that moment he felt compelled to open his Bible to a scripture that ultimately changed his life, “Let Christ Jesus be the armor that you wear, give no more thought to satisfying bodily appetites.”
In Martin Blake’s The English Pilgrim, God’s voice is revealed in everyday life, “if God spoke to me it would be through one of his creatures — whenever I heard the moaning of the wind, the crashing of the waves, the chatter of crowds in the marketplace, or the cry of the child, I would listen for a still, small voice.”
Whether a stranger or friend, a moment in nature or through a book or movie, God speaks to us. For God is spirit, living and moving amongst us, day in and day out, to meet our needs, to care for us and guide us to being servants for the greater good.
Take time to notice, to listen, to seek and to find..and wait with expectation. Heed Maya Angelou’s call to ‘Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
Sometimes God will tell us great and hidden things that we have not known!
We love your comments, tell us your experience of hearing God’s voice!