As I walked into the coffee shop, I noticed a man pacing around in the back of the shop, talking loudly. At first I thought he was talking on the phone with an earpiece. As he became louder and more agitated, I realized he was talking to voices that no one else could hear. While others in the coffee shop seemed to ignore him, my background as a psychiatric nurse alerted me to his need for help, and also to the potential danger of his acting out. After the man’s behavior escalated, the staff called the police to help.
While that may seem like an extreme case of “hearing voices” and responding to them, it reminded me that I too hear voices. Actually, we all do! We are surrounded by the voices of our family, friends, co-workers, the radio, T.V., and especially on the Internet and social media. It seems to me like we are exposed to more voices than ever before.
But in my life, I am entering a season that is quieter, with lots of alone time and fewer commitments. My natural tendency is to quickly fill up my schedule with some sort of productivity, and to seek out the myriad of voices available to me. I feel impatient to “figure out” what God is calling me to do next. How do I discern God’s voice through the steady stream of other voices?
Well-meaning voices encourage me to pursue a second career, find a job, or fill my time with any number of activities and volunteer opportunities. Perhaps the loudest voice is my own. I often battle the internal voices of self-doubt, fear, and condemnation. But could it be that in this season of quiet, God wants to teach me how to really listen to His Voice?
I love what Jesus says about His Voice in John 10.
“But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers” (John 10:2-5, ESV).
The sheep hear His Voice.
He calls His sheep by name.
The sheep follow Him because they know His voice.
Wanting to learn more about sheep and shepherds during the time of Jesus’ teaching, I found interesting insights at http://www.bible-history.com/. For example, when different flocks of sheep are mixed and grazing together, the shepherd will call out to his own sheep, and they will lift their heads and follow him. A stranger can try to use the same call, but the sheep ignore him. How amazing that the sheep can discern their own shepherd’s voice so clearly above the noise of other sheep and other shepherds!
How do the sheep do this? I imagine the sheep spend lots of time with the shepherd in the open pasture. The shepherd has gotten to know each individual sheep, and has been a trustworthy caretaker of each sheep’s needs day in and day out.
As sheep of God’s flock, we can know and follow our Shepherd’s Voice in a similar way. We can choose to spend time with Him, trusting Him to take care of our needs and to lead us in His way and His timing. This doesn’t happen easily, especially with wander-prone and easily distracted sheep (like me!).
Applying this teaching of Jesus to my life in a practical way, I have committed to reading through the bible using a daily reading plan (one that is outlined at the back of my bible). I am asking God to speak to me through His Word, and to enable me to listen to His Voice above all others.
Will you join me in the journey of spending time with the Good Shepherd? I would love to hear how you are learning to hear the Shepherd’s Voice!
Dear Father, Thank you that You love each one of your flock, and that You know us and call us by name. Draw us to You each day, so we can know Your voice and follow where You lead. Amen!