As I wait in line early in the morning at Starbucks, I hear the voice of a customer at the front of the line placing her order. It’s loud and the barista responds: “Excuse me, can you please repeat your order. I couldn’t hear you.” The customer speaks louder placing her order and moves along. As I wait my turn, I hear many voices as music streams in the background. I listen to the voices, yet I cannot hear the specific content in the sea of voices and conversations.
We encounter many voices in the course of our day. We speak and listen as large volumes of information are exchanged. Even when we sleep, we sometimes hear voices in our dreams. We often desire a voice at the table, a wish to voice our concerns, a longing to hear a familiar voice, and sometimes, we feel like a voice in the wilderness.
Yet I wonder how many of us hear the Divine voice in our daily lives. This voice who calls us to listen or to speak up. Do we listen intently to this voice that is calling us – a voice like no other? How do we recognize this Divine voice? How do we sort through the many voices? The question for many of us becomes: How do we discern the Divine voice among all the other voices?
First, we must understand that God’s voice is not absent from our daily lives. If we are attentive, we will hear and discern this voice that is guiding, directing, calling and in conversation with us all the time. God’s voice may come to us through other people, a song, nature, prayer, in our loneliness and in our brokenness. It comes to us in the bitter cold of a New England day, in our success and in our failure, in our asking and in our receiving, in our resting and in our sleeping.
Secondly, God provides an invitation and calls us by name. In the gratitude, in the joy, and in the sorrow of our daily lives, we experience God’s voice and this invitation.
In his most recent book on prayer, Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio tells us: “God is the author of everything good … whether it’s religious or not …”
As a writer who desires to provide a voice to God’s presence in the world, I am reminded that God is also the greatest author. God provides a narrative and a voice that models a way for us to live in the world.
Thirdly, God’s only begotten son Jesus used narratives and metaphors to model a way of life. Rolheiser reminds us that the metaphor of the Good Shepherd provides us with a wonderful example of a voice unlike any other. The shepherd, whose life is dedicated to guarding his sheep, provides a voice to guide, direct and protect his sheep. The shepherd’s voice is clear to his sheep. The sheep have been trained to be attuned to this voice.
When the shepherd calls his sheep – individually or as a group – the sheep is so attuned to his voice that they follow only him. Even if a shepherd tried to replicate another shepherd’s voice, the sheep would only follow its real master. This intimate voice provides a safe refuge – the sheep knows who to follow.
Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy for us – if we could discern the “one voice” among all other voices – the intimate voice of our shepherd calling us?
Someone recently reminded me that the words “listen” and “silent” contain the same letters. As we reflect on these letters in a new way, in a different order, perhaps we can listen in a new way – a way that is more attentive and intentional, training ourselves to be attuned to the voice that is calling us by name.
As I make my way to the front of the line at Starbucks, the barista greets me with a smile and asks for my order. As I reply, placing my order, I am reminded that my voice is one of many heard by the barista in the midst of her day.
Finally, I am reminded that I am one voice in the sea of many on a spiritual journey who speaks and listens, always open to the one voice that is calling me by name.
Teresa Schulz is a sdpiritual director, author, retreat facilitator and health care chaplain. She is the Founder of Tools for Intentional Living and Transformation and co-founder of MaineSpiritus. She can be reached at: [email protected]