People sometimes ask me, “How do you know when God is speaking to you? Can you really hear that voice?” These are timeless questions. Being a seeker and an observer, over the years I’ve found three discernible methods that God has used to get through to my sometimes thick head and heart.
There have been times — usually periods of crisis — when I’ve actually heard a voice of divine clarity and wisdom in my mind. There was the time years ago when I was lost in addiction and prayed that desperate and common prayer “God help me!” The subsequent “conversation” was sober and direct; the guidance true and wise, definitely not from me.
Then there was the time I almost dropped out of seminary because of doctrinal differences. In my overly dramatic sobbing grief, I heard the distinct voice of God, something like a Jewish grandmother, saying, “I never said you’d like it, I just said go.” I stayed.
More often, however, I’ve come to a quieter, intuitive knowing relationship with God. It’s sometimes said that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening, and for the most part, I think that’s true for me. Meditation is when I connect and allow that divine spirit to illuminate what’s true and right for me in that moment. It’s not words anymore, but a sense of “rightness” that transcends my own wants and needs and is motivated by love, that energy that flows out from my heart, desiring nothing but the best for the object of its affection.
Finally, there are those times when even after much prayer and meditation, I don’t seem to have clear, divine guidance. It’s almost as if God is saying, “Do what you want, I’ll be there no matter what.” It’s a little like a father teaching his child to ride a bicycle. At some point the parent has to let go and let the kid do it on his or her own. And sometimes, I fall down.
But to minimize the falls, I’ve learned to ask some important questions about any impending decision: a) Will this result in the highest and best for all? b) Is the way being made clear for this action to take place? In other words, is the divine universe helping to make this happen? And finally, c) When I envision myself in the outworking of this decision, am I energized and feeling blessed, or is there dread and fear? Usually, after answering these questions, I have confidence that the decision is spiritually sound.
It is my ultimate belief that the great teacher, the spirit of God, is in everyone. Accessing and developing a loving, meaningful relationship with that inner, holy guide is the surest way I know to a happy and fulfilled life.