Not long ago, I shared with you a story which reminded me of the need to recognize God’s voice in our lives. The thing is, how do you learn to recognize it?
I’m sure there are many scholars and teachers out there who can give you a more theological answer to this great mystery, but I like to take a more practical approach. Not that theology is less important than practical. It’s just that theology without practice is nothing more than book knowledge.
When I was very new in my faith, I found that decisions I was making were very atypical to the patterns in my life. For instance, when I was a senior in high school, and literally only weeks before I ultimately gave my heart to the Lord, I was preparing for the annual band trip to Southern California during Spring break. Not only was I part of the marching and concert bands, I was the student president of the music department. This trip was the social highlight of the year. And there was particular significance with it being my senior year.
However, having been on the trips the previous three years, I knew very well of the activities which went on when the chaperones were nestled away in their own hotel rooms. The trip was scheduled for the week following Easter Sunday. But just a few weeks earlier, I had lost my entire interest in going on the trip. I notified the band director that I would not be going. He was very upset with me. I was the band president, and also the first chair in the trombone section. Despite the backlash I knew this would create, there was nothing in me that wanted to be part of this trip.
The Monday following the trip, and the first day back in school after Spring break, the Dean of students approached me in the main hallway of the school. He was a very tall and imposing figure. At 6’7″, he was affectionately, and reverently called “Lurch” by the student body, in reference to the character from the television show, The Addams Family. We had a very friendly relationship throughout my years in high school, but this time he had a rather serious look on his face.
-“I’m very disappointed in you, Corey.”
-“I heard about what happened on the trip to Southern California.”
Apparently, things had gotten rather out of control – more than usual – on this particular trip. But I was able to tell him I wasn’t on the trip, so I wasn’t A) responsible for what happened, nor B) a participant in what happened. On both accounts, God had protected me physically, spiritually, and even my reputation. God’s voice, at work. And as a brand new Christian, right out of the wrapper, I didn’t even know it was God’s voice until I could later think about everything and unpack it all in my mind.
A few years later, I was in Lexington, Kentucky on a tour with a Christian band I was singing with. We had a rare night off, and the guys in the band decided they wanted to go bowling. I just wasn’t in the mood. I was going through a bit of an identity crisis. I was still very young in my Christian experience, and even newer at singing. I was traveling in a group of people who were not only practically born on a pew, but most of them were part of musical families. I really felt unqualified, inferior, and very out-of-place. As the band was out having fun, I crawled into my bed in my hotel room and began flipping through the channels on the TV. I came across the movie, “The Breakfast Club”. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s about a group of kids in high school who, for different reasons, are sentenced to Saturday detention in the school library. The cast of characters includes a rocker guy, a jock, a goth girl, a girly-girl, and a nerdy brainiac. Kind of an odd mix of characters to be locked together for an entire day. But it is a very introspective type of movie when considering what makes us who we are, and finding we may have more in common when we look beneath the surface.
It was the perfect movie for the mood I was in. Then it came to me. God’s voice. As if someone shot a flare into a moonless night’s sky, it revealed my fears and doubts. Then this simple question filled my thoughts;
–“Do you think I made a mistake?”
It was undoubtedly the voice of God speaking to me. The reason I knew this was because it was so opposite of my natural way of thinking. Then, in an instant, I pondered the depth of the question. In the entire history of mankind, going back to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, how many people have walked the face of the earth? Without even needing to know the specific number, I had kind of a scale to work with as I continue the thought.
Then, God continued;
–“Since that time, there have been only six people I have placed in this ministry. Only one lives any further west than Kansas.You. Again I ask. Do you think I made a mistake?”
Of course, I knew enough to know God doesn’t make mistakes. He had selected me to be part of this exclusive group. And in those moments, I was able to see that my life was filled with purpose. There were better singers. There were people who had forgotten more bible verses than I even knew. There were people who were more of this, and less of that than I was (and am). But God has put His Spirit and purpose in me. Other people are not my standard of measure. I have God’s call on my life, and He is my equalizer. God created me to be me.
God’s voice, to me, is clear because it contradicts my own voice. His voice gives me purpose. It causes me to go against the pattern my life would normally take. It defies logic. It defies my sinful nature.
While the bible is commonly referred to as “God’s Word”, I’m so grateful that He speaks to me personally. He speaks to my heart in ways I can understand. He thrills me when He speaks to me. His voice sometimes comes through the words and actions of people around me, sometimes in quiet moments when I’m home alone, sometimes through a song or something I’m reading.
His voice is impossible to describe, but it’s unmistakeable. And it’s something I can’t live without.