the gentle voice of God

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Slow down. Slow way down.

Washing dishes in the sink. Running errands in the car. Rushing around the house in the morning madness before work.

A dozen times in the past few weeks, I’ve heard the voice, simple and steady, speaking somewhere between mind and heart.

Slow down. Slow way down.

I ignored it for a while. Bothersome, distracting.

Then during one frenzied moment of both kids crying, telephone ringing, pot on the stove bubbling over, to-do list for the night glaring at me undone, I finally stopped and listened.

As in, white-knuckled hands gripping the sink, head bent down to hear, blood pounding in my ears, really listened.

Slow down. Slow WAY down.

I turned off the bubbling pot. I silenced the phone. I scooped up two crying boys. I cleared a spot on the toy-strewn floor for us to sit down together. I pulled an armful of books off the shelf. I started to read.

I ignored dinner and computer and phone and to-do list. I slowed down. Slowed way down.

And the rest of our night did, too.

. . .

I’m writing a new curriculum for small groups to reflect on God’s call and work (Called to Life and Called to Work). Over the past few weeks I’ve been returning to feedback from facilitators who piloted earlier versions of the program. One particular section of participants’ responses keeps haunting me.

When people were asked to imagine what response they would get if they asked God, “What am I supposed to do with my life?”, God’s responses were consistently kind and full of compassion:

Keep doing what you are doing.

Trust me. I will take care of you. It will be okay.

Live into the commitments you made. Look for love and light.

See me in the unfolding of every day.

Your life is worth something. You are valuable.

You’ve been too hard on yourself.

You don’t have to please others anymore. Follow your heart.

Take care of my people. Feed my sheep.

Real responses from people who did our program. The first time I read their words, I felt the hair prickle on the back of my neck. Because no matter how cynical I sometimes get, when I read words as simple and loving and compassionate and gentle as those that people heard from God, they resonate as deepest truth.

Slow down. Slow way down.

When I look back over my life, a few moments crystallize when I can remember hearing – in that strange, silent interior-but-not-self echo – what I would call God’s voice. I came to recognize it as God’s voice slowly, over time, with lots of testing and skepticism and doubt. And I started to learn that the truth of the voice being God’s – and not my own, or someone else’s, or society’s – was because the voice was not booming or profound or powerful, but because it was quite the opposite: soft, simple, gentle.

Always loving, forgiving, compassionate.

Wanting wholeness, seeking peace, offering hope.

Slow down. Slow way down.

. . .

The refrain keeps nagging at me.

I know I do too much, pack every day full to bursting, stress too much and sleep not enough. I realize the wake-up call is, in fact, a sit-down call.

More than that, I know that the voice will not relent unless I respond. God is persistent in calling, especially where change is concerned.

So I’m trying to slow down, slow way down.

Turning off the noise and listening to the quiet. Clearing space for what matters and letting the rest fall away. Breathing into the prayer of the present moment.

But it’s hard, really hard. God’s voice is so often challenging, too. Why slow down? Why not rush to fill every precious second of this life with something worth living?

Yet the call persists, darn it.

My slow response must, too.

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7 thoughts on “the gentle voice of God

    Peg Conway said:
    August 28, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Wise words that I increasingly find to be true in my own life. I must continually be reminded that God’s voice is gentle and that self-criticism comes not from God.

      mothering spirit responded:
      August 28, 2012 at 10:51 am

      So true, Peg. The sorting out and sifting through of all the voices, to figure out which one is truly God’s, is hard work. But oh, the freedom when we find it!

    Lauren said:
    August 28, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Such resonating words. Thank you. So often we want to hear the voice of God outside of ourselves, directing us as a parent directs a child. It takes a long time to trust that “interior-but-not-self echo.” Am I hearing what I want to hear? How can God be so internal? This simply can’t be!

    The past few years have brought a couple of bursts of that echo. God spoke me toward the monastery and then spoke me away from it. Since making the decision not to enter, I’ve often wondered if I’ve simply chosen to stay here because it’s easier or safer or more fun. And then I still my heart, think about it, and am graced by the voice that says, “No, you are where you belong. Stay.” There’s a profound peace that comes from listening to that voice.

    Your post also reminds me of a quotation by Ntozake Shange: “I found God in myself and I loved her; I loved her fiercely.”

    Amen.

      mothering spirit responded:
      September 12, 2012 at 11:13 am

      ACK your comment went to my spam folder for some reason, Lauren! I am so glad I went there for some strange reason this morning! (Hmm…)

      What wisdom you share here…there are so many voices to sort through in discernment (my ego, society, God’s voice). Doubt is shot through all of them, at least for me. So the sifting through takes a long time. But your example of the voice that speaks you to stay, that resonates so deeply. God calls us to some things and away from others, and sometimes deep within, right where we are. Beautiful.

    beckstrandschaferc said:
    September 3, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I think I’m going to read this entry in particular, every morning and every night. Thank you!

    [...] life with littles. But there were also quiet moments full of God: doing nothing and resting after, slowing down and listening, living and forgiving each other. I watched us each relax into the rhythm of hours [...]

    lentissimo « mothering spirit said:
    February 11, 2013 at 8:11 am

    [...] if I do slow my rhythm down, slow way down, painfully slower than my normal pace, then and only then do my fingers relax into what they can [...]

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