The most popular question I’m approached with is simple: how do you hear God speak?
I reference it a lot in my writing. God whispered. God spoke. God said. I realize I address God as if we are sitting down together for morning coffee and he is dictating my day for me. I also realize that it doesn’t really work that way.
I never want to come off like God whispers to wake me up in the morning or I hear this slow, steady, streaming voice throughout my daily interactions as if he’s the voice of Siri.
God speaks through his word.
I wish it sounded cooler than that. Just yesterday I sat with a friend over coffee and she asked, how do you know he is speaking?
I say back to her, "I spend enough time with him to know the sound of his voice." Before I learned to sit and wait for him I would believe any voice that spoke to me.
I’ve learned that the more time you spend in the word of God, the more clearly he speaks into other areas of your life. The more time you spend understanding his voice, and what it sounds like, the more you are able to discern whether you are hearing from God or not.
Honestly, I don’t think it is always that we wonder whether God is speaking or not. There are a lot of competing voices. Half of the battle of a life of faith is knowing when you are hearing the voice of God or when it is the lies uttering half-truths to you on repeat.
I flopped open my bible two days before Christmas. I was fully aware that this year it seemed I would have no goals for the New Year. It feels like this is the first year where I don’t want anything. I don’t need anything. I am perfectly happy with my life.
I’m not trying to boast in this. I wasn’t fully candid with it last December but I lost four months of my life to the roughest battle with depression and anxiety that I’ve ever experienced. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. People ask why my faith is so mighty and robust these days and the answer is simple: he brought me out of the darkness. I only have forever to thank him for that.
I’m usually restless when I walk into the New Year. I want to get rid of things. I want to let go. I want to be a new person. I want that sacred, sultry do-over.
I am approaching 2016 differently than any other year prior. Instead of traipsing into the year with a list of demands for myself that seem not rational-- like "lose all the weight" and "organize all the things"-- I am quieter. I am less expectant of myself and more expectant of God.
I tie a little red thread around my wrist as a way to tell myself, "You want him to use you. You have always wanted him to use you. Let this tiny red thread me a reminder that you have to make sacrifices in order to best be used by him. You are a vessel, babycakes. Remember that, you are a vessel. This isn't about resolutions-- it's about progress."
As I read I think, “Give me a word.” I want a word for the year ahead. I want it to be a good word. Something powerful. Something that will stir momentum inside of my heart. A word like “brave” or “strong” or “capable.”
I walk over to my mother’s bookshelf and I pull the Exhaustive Concordance from the corner of the shelf. I hold the book for a few minutes before I decide that I am simply going to open up the book and see what word sits before me. I don’t really recommend this method but it does work sometimes.
I open. I place my finger down. The word is “pure.”
I cringe. I hate all the connotations that come with the word “pure.” I associate the word “pure” with innocence. I think, this is a mistake and I need a new word. My word for 2016 cannot possibly be pure.
However, I am not a fool. I can tell that God wants to do something here. God is always wanting to dig into the places where we are most reluctant to go.
So I start to dig. I open up to the first reference of “pure” in the bible that catches my attention. James 4:8:
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
To be double-minded is to be unstable. Unstable, in this context, would mean you are a person who says one thing and then you do another. You might gossip. You might use the sharpness of your tongue. You might ask with big faith and then retract. You might believe God in one hour and then run back to the prisons of fear in your mind.
I can say with confidence that I don't want that. I don’t want to be the type of person who goes through life with two faces. I want to be single-minded. Single-tracked. Singularly content with God.
Contentment. That’s what trips me up every time. That’s the word in the room that I don’t like trying to dissect because I know it would push me far out of the confines of my comfort zone. Friends, we must ditch the comfort zone. We must ditch the comfort zone as if our whole lives hinged upon us going free.
I write down the question: what do I need to give up? What am I still holding too tightly?