Friday, April 23, 2010

Hearing God's Voice- My Story

I have been reading the comments on the previous post and want to thank those that have shared.  I appreciate your sharing!  If you haven't read that post, you might want to read it first.

I told you that I would share with you part of my story and experience learning to listen and hear from the Lord.  Before I get into the details I want to restate what I mentioned in the last post.  I believe that each person is unique and has their own relationship with the Lord.  We are individuals and our God is creative and limitless.  Just as I speak to each of the people in my life differently, it's likely that the way He speaks to me is different (be that by a lot or a little) than the way in which He speaks to, or will speak to you.  It's more that I thought it would be good to have examples for a frame of reference.  Sharing our experience can help others to grow in their relationship with God, just like sharing an experience from your marriage or parenting could help someone in a different family, with different relationships, take something away that would be beneficial to their situation.  My experiences do not dictate what theirs will look like, but might give inspiration or a starting direction.  It might be that the only effect is to remind eachother of how exciting it can be to really live on God's path and to hear from Him.  Because, really, how awesome is it that we even have that privilege?  GOD wants to talk with me?  It's easy to forget how crazy that really is!

Where to start?  The Bible.  That's my opinion of course, but I am pretty sure that most of us would agree on that point.  God gave us written words.  Words that we cannot mistake for someone other than God.  Words that are truth and alive.  I've heard a few times, "I just wish that God would talk to me in a big loud voice so that I KNOW that it's Him and not my own thoughts!" ...or something similar.  Well, we don't have to question anything in God's word.  We know how to read.  We know what the words on the page say, and He told us that they are truth.  If we believe Him, then we believe scripture.

Forever and ever, no matter how far I grow in my relationship with the Lord, no matter how confident I become in hearing His voice, I KNOW that if something in scripture doesn't match up- the scripture is the truth and what I heard is not from God.  The Bible is always there to be used as a confirmation.  I know that all things should go through the filter of scripture and that's why it is so important for me to have a regular time reading and studying it.  I love how God uses His word and has shown me that it is alive.  Let me share deeper on that.

When I began seeking a different kind of relationship with Him, I was looking for a specific change.  I wanted it to be truth when I said that I follow Jesus.  When I say that I am following my friend to find a location that I have never been to, that person is leading.  I'm not making the decisions, I'm just going where I'm told (or in this case shown) to go.  I felt like my life should be like that with God.  I still feel like it should be way more like that by the way, but I have to remind myself all the time that I am in progress.  I lack grace for myself and want to throw me away when I'm not perfect.  (Good thing God doesn't feel that way and He saves me from myself.)  So, anyway, I was asking God to show me how to do that.  How am I supposed to follow You like that?  How can I say that I give You my whole life and then still dictate where and how I go?  I feel like I am trying to ask You for advice on what to do with the situations that I brought myself to (be they positive or difficult), instead of being led to every circumstance that I find myself in.

The logical place to start was by reading my Bible regularly and praying.  Before I started to hear His voice outside of scripture, I started to hear Him there.  I learned more of what He was like and I had a spot to go everyday.  Most of the time, my reading is just where I left off the day before.  Often that includes a couple of different areas, but it's not a jump around thing.  It's a "set" place where I go.  The AWESOME thing about this is that it gives me such confidence is God and how truly amazing He is.  Time after time, the words that I read fit perfectly with something that I needed to hear or that gives instruction.  And it can't be chance when it's the same area I've been reading for so long.  How stinking beautiful is it that He KNOWS where I am going to be reading in three weeks and He KNOWS what I am going to be wondering or questioning or going through, and He KNOWS what I will need to hear...and then His Spirit makes it jump right off the page to fill the questions in my heart and mind?!?  Seriously.  If a man could do that, you can bet that people all over would know about it.  Word would spread quickly.  How HUGE is God, how AWESOME that He can do things like that!

As time passed a bit in my reading, I was guided to change some things in my life.  We were not doing things that were particularly bad, just had some things that were cluttering our lives with things that were not beneficial.  I want my life to be about God, not about having God in it.  We decided as a family to let go of our television.  It was something that took up lots of time and we didn't even like most of the shows we watched.  We felt like there were plenty of things there that didn't look pleasing to God, and we weren't huge TV addicts.  There were books that got let go of, movies that went bye bye, and computer time was cut.  This wasn't a choice of legalistic things, it was just what we felt like God was asking our family to let go of.  There were some other things too, but I can't remember all of the changes we made at that time.

The result- quiet.  Our home was more peaceful.  We had more time on our hands.  When we started this change, we weren't sure what we would fill that time with.  Now Handsome and I have commented to each other how we don't know how we could waste all that time on something we didn't even really like doing that much.  Clutter was removed from our lives that was making it harder to hear from the Lord.  It was like we had been in a forest near a stream and couldn't hear the water flowing because of a logging project going on right next to us.  When the loggers left, the peaceful sound of the stream was clear and it was easier to hear it flowing over the rocks.  Instead of straining to hear it, the stream actually became quite loud.

I began a journal during my quiet time with the Lord.  This was probably when the biggest change took place, though if I hadn't started with the ground work, I doubt the journal would have made that much difference.  My journal helps in a few ways.  First, God doesn't always answer questions right away.  Sometimes He will answer a few days later, or even a week or more.  Going back and looking at the answers to questions that I have written is a good way to remember God's faithfulness.  Second, it helps me to remember and keep track of things.  Verses that stand out to me get written down and often I don't know why they stood out until later on down the road.  He often speaks to me in words.  Sometimes, I ask a question and then get an answer right away.  Sometimes, when I'm just sitting there listening to Him, He will say something...I write it down.  Then, I can see if it is confirmed with scripture because I have the words right there.  The specifics of the words are often very important and the things that are said have great meaning based on the specific wording used.  It's important to me that I have this written down so that I can look back at the exact words.  Third, it keeps me focused.  Somehow, when I am writing things down during our time together it keeps me focused.  I'm less likely to get distracted when journaling.

I want to stop here and remind you that this is ONLY and account of how things have happened for me.  This isn't the way everyone's time with God will look like and it's not a way that would work for everyone.  It's just how things have developed for me.  Some people might even have issues with something that I did or do.  I just want to remind you of these things and say that whether it was a good or bad method, I did learn and grow a lot through this time and process.  God takes a willing heart and leads it to closeness with Him.  It's about the true desire of the heart to know God and find His will, not about specific steps taken to make that progress.

When I started my journal, it would often look the same.  I started with the date, followed by any questions that I had for the Lord.  Then I would tell Him that I was open to whatever He had to say to me.  I knew that if it was time for any of the questions to receive answer, He would speak to those things.  If not, I wasn't going to complain at all.  I just wanted to hear from Him, to know what He wanted to say to me.  I would also write thanks and praise, and I know that very frequently I would tell Him that I just wanted Him to teach me to love Him more.  That I knew that my ability to love Him was something that only He could provide my incapable human heart.  This time does not often include prayer requests, though I write them from time to time or talk to Him about particular ones that are heavy on my heart.  I feel that prayers of asking are something that I like to keep more separate.  I want this time to be about developing a relationship and dialogue, not asking Him for things.  If something is heavy on my heart, it would most likely be shared anyway.  My tears and fears will be spoken.

I write those things down so they are not pressing on my mind in worry that I will forget something.  I lay it all out from the start and then just sit and listen.  I wait to see what He will say to me.  Quite often, His words start with things that are not listed.  It could be things from a day or two ago that haven't been answered yet, or it could be something that doesn't have anything to do with thoughts I had been thinking at all.  I'll give you an example.

...The spider
You fear the spider when it's harmless and even helpful because you fear just a few of it's kind.  Most are busy about their work, doing just what they were created to do.

I seek control rather than living in faith and trust.  When most things (bee, spider, etc.) will not come near harming me.  I seek to kill all of them because they give me feelings of lack of control...and fear of pain.

Give up more control...

This was just a short part of an entry.  I was sitting and a spider caught my eye.  God said "The spider".  That's all He said at first and then when I wrote the words "the spider" down, the rest just came flowing out.  Thus began a great work that God has been doing in my heart by way of fear (which has been a HUGE setback in my life) and control.  There is still a LOT of work to be done here, but even if other people don't see it, I know that much has changed in this area for me over the last year.  Control and fear were things that I knew were issues for me, but I chose to look away from them.

After I write down any words I've heard and have time just being quiet before the Lord, often just experiencing Him and His presence, then I spend time reading God's word.  Most often, things that were spoken that I didn't already know were an issue that wasn't in line with God would be confirmed in scripture that day (because things like fear and control didn't need confirmation each time, I know those aren't of God because of daily reading...they're easily recognized as something God wouldn't want to be part of my life).  Often this will be words that are part of the reading, or concepts.  There are specifics that stand out to confirm what God just said.  Sometimes it comes in a few days time.  Especially in the early times, it was counted as my head unless God gave confirmation.  I tried to look for an example to show you, but none of the ones I found were things I could share here because I just feel they are too personal for the great web.  I do want to stress that I feel that confirmation is very important, especially while in the early stages of learning to discern His voice.

The more I have that time of listening and getting confirmation, first through scripture and then later through the fulfilling of things He said, confidence grows.  I am always aware that I can be wrong, or that I may not have understood clearly what God meant with what He said (hence the specific words in the journal).  While that can discourage me for a little while, I also know that it's just part of the process.  I'm not perfect and I never will be.  Being wrong sometimes keeps humility in the picture and holds back pride, so I even find it good for me.  What brings humility never feels good, but the effect of humility is always great.  God draws close to the humble.  Wrong = uncomfortable dose of humility = God draws closer and I can know Him better.  It's worth the cost.

I may share more with you at another time, but I feel this is enough for right now.

Please know that I have just shared quite a bit of detail about something that is very deep and private for me.  These are details that haven't been shared with very many people and it's letting you see inside a very personal part of my life.  I am open to any voices of differing opinion and/or guidance, I just ask that you state any things of that nature in a kind way.  Realize that this is my relationship with my Lord and any criticism is not of my theology or religion, but of my interactions with Him personally.  It's very different than making a sharp comment about a person's stance on something like the trinity, or their choice of denomination.  Please keep that in mind with the tone of any comments.

I also hope to continue hearing from more of you about your personal experiences here.


Vicky said...

Having never been a consistent journaller, I wasn't too sure about it when you suggested it. I also didn't think I'd stick with it. Yet, nearly a year later, I feel like that has made a HUGE difference. It helps to keep me focused as well as providing something to look back on (whether that be lessons or to see how I have changed/ grown). Thanks for suggesting it!

Cilla said...

I am intrigued to know more about journalling. I don't even really understand what you mean by journalling. however... the whole topic of these previous 2 posts is just so precious... that i've posted a link to them on my blog.