Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hearing the Right Voice

This week, I'm recycling a column I wrote several years ago for a magazine. It has been on my mind, so I thought I'd pull it out, re-read it myself, and share it with you.

One of the birds I enjoy hearing is the wood thrush. It has such a melodious song. As I listen for it, I realize my effort to hear it sing relates to my effort to hear God’s voice.

You need to know what you are listening for. If I didn’t know what a wood thrush sounds like, I wouldn’t know when I hear it among the chorus of bird songs. Someone had to share it with me so I knew what I am listening for. In the same way, I needed someone to teach me how God’s voice sounds so I could distinguish it from the other voices I hear.

Once I know what the wood thrush’s song sounds like, I still must listen in order to hear it. I’ve noticed I can miss its song by listening to a robin or a mockingbird or a wren. If my ears are tuned to another song, I don’t hear the wood thrush. Even looking at the full moon causes me to tune out the bird songs. But if I focus my hearing on the wood thrush’s song, all the other distractions fade into the background. If I want to hear God’s voice, I need to be an active listener. I must make an effort to listen for it or I will lose it among the competing voices in the world. When I do actively and attentively listen for it, I often find that the other voices fade away.

It also helps to be in the right environment. As its name implies, the wood thrush lives in the woods. I won’t hear it in the grocery store parking lot. Even in our neighborhood, I only hear it in certain places, where there are more trees than grass. God is not limited by environment, but if I am in the wrong environment, it will be harder for me to hear God's voice.

There are times when I cannot hear the song of the wood thrush. I may be travelling or sick and unable to get outside. I know the song well, so I can sing it in my head. I can enjoy it even when I cannot hear it. There are times when I’m struggling due to illness, family crisis, or some other life circumstance. I may find it hard at those times to listen for God’s voice. By knowing it well enough, I can hear it in my head even as I go through difficulty!

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