“How do we tune in and hear God’s voice when others are simultaneously having conversations that are within ear shot?”
This question came up in a recent exchange with a young woman discerning her life’s calling. I found it resonant then, and now — especially as our community turns toward the start of our Fall discernment series, entitled, “Following the Spirit.”
The question makes me giggle. (Read: I imagine trying to hear God speaking over the dull roar of a cocktail party; or, being at a family reunion and trying to share an ear of corn-on-the-cob with Jesus, only to have the butter and salt passers and burger consumers shove in on our space — and I miss Christ’s message.)
I return to the heart to of the question, and consider a litany of supporting queries for discerners: How do we hear? How do we tune in? What do we tune out? How do we know what is genuinely from God? How do we receive messages that perhaps aren’t all so life-giving or divinely-inspired and gently put them aside? Ah, the blessed process that listening is, eh!?
“I imagine trying to hear God speaking over the dull roar of a cocktail party; or, being at a family reunion and trying to share an ear of corn-on-the-cob with Jesus, only to have the butter and salt passers and burger consumers shove in on our space — and I miss Christ’s message.”
I am remembering sitting in English class at Norfolk Catholic my senior year of high school. It was early Fall and Ms. Burkink, our guidance counselor, was making rounds to quiz us about our next steps academically-speaking. We were often pulled from this Senior Writing class for such interviews. Anne Dostal sat next to me, nudging me with questions, on the heels of Ms. Burkink’s loud-speaker pages bidding the next student to come to her office (at least those she thought were college bound).
“Where will you go to college?” Anne whispered. “I’m getting all of this information from St. Kate’s in St. Paul, MN; if I could go out of a state, to a private school, it would be there.”
Of course, when my own parents asked a similar question at the dinner table later that week, I said, “I’d like to check out St. Kate’s in St. Paul, MN.”
Yes, I was getting the same information that Anne Dostal was in the mail (we were targeted based on our grades and ACT/SAT scores, right?) But her clarity in looking elsewhere — beyond the borders of our state, or our full-ride offers from the U, gave me permission to do so as well. It was like a gift from God, her voice — an affirmation that my own college-seeking self so truly needed.
(Background: I’m the firstborn in our family of six children, and while my father got a 4-year degree — he ran away from home to do so; my mom left Mount Marty College after three semesters to marry her high school sweetheart. Translation: college discernment processes were not uber-familiar ones for my mom and dad, and so my search was rather hap-hazard at first.)
I think back on that process of early academic and life discernment, and think of Anne’s voice as a gift to me in my own process of tuning in to the Spirit and next steps. “What is next? How will I know what’s right? Is what is right for her, also okay for me?”
In today’s world, we have so many opportunities, resources, information, “voices,” if you will, at our fingertips — or drowning out our ears (not unlike the dull roar of voices at a cocktail party, or people nudging in on your sacred time tuning into Christ’s message for you). Just opening up your lap top, or turning on your phone or glancing toward the TV can bombard you with info that you need to process — pay attention to, or tune out. There are a billion messages for any one person looking for an indication on where to turn next in life….
So: how do we genuinely hear God’s call? What voices do we turn the volume up or down on? Who do we trust to process our deepest questions with? How do we hear God?
I close out this post today with nothing but a sincere prayer for each and every discerning individual out there. May you be anchored by the joy and love of God in your soul, may you have quiet space to tune in to Love’s voice; may you be shepherded by a wise, or kindred presence who will affirm and nurture you on your path. This is my prayer for you this day.
PEACE and BLESSINGS!