I have this wonderful friend who has been a spiritual mentor to me for many years. She listens well, responds with love, and challenges me to stretch the boundaries of my understanding of God. Usually, our conversations go like this:
Me: [blathers on and on about my personal life at that particular moment in time]
She: [offers words of comfort, gentleness, and compassion. And then…] “Have you talked to God about this?”
Its funny how this works. Having known her for some time, I can predict that she will say this, yet it always causes me to take a step back and re-focus my awareness. Usually, when the question is posed by her, the truth is I haven’t “talked to God” about it. And if my friend isn’t sitting right next to me asking the question directly, and my thoughts distract me, and those pesky self-critical thoughts begin repeating, and my heart can not seem to find a peaceful place, I’ve miraculously begun to ask myself the same question.
Have I talked to God?
What does this question really mean?
I tend to think that all of my random thoughts are directed at God. As if God is just one big listening machine, and my thoughts go in, and God hears every word. Of course, in this scenario, God knows what I am trying to say at every moment. Most days, this is what I think of as talking to God. When I actually sit down and attempt to quiet my mind, I talk to God in a much different way. Dear God, help me to understand. Dear God, help me to respond with compassion. Dear God, bless this day for my daughter (or husband, or friend). Dear God, enlighten my path. Dear God, teach me to pray. Dear God, shower me with grace.
And then I try to listen. Listening for God, though, invariably creates some tension in my heart. Where do I find the voice of God? Sometimes during prayer, I feel as if God directs me to a particular scripture passage or a spiritual reading, and I am thankful for the ways in which it sheds light on the situation. Most days, this does not happen.
And so I pray, Dear God, teach me to listen, to recognize, and to know your voice.
I invite you to do the same.
A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.