Learning and Discerning Vocations: Baby Steps to God; About Listening

The following is an article that I wrote under my pen name “Irina Demkiw” and it was published in “Progress” (a bi-weekly Ukrainian community newspaper) and on my irinademkiw.wordpress.com blog site on November 13, 2011.

When I am feeling like I am being cared for, listened to, provided for, and not alone, this sense of safety feeds my soul, my spirit, my mind, my heart with responsive love to my God. I was beginning to know God by His subtle nudgings and whisperings which sometimes were clear at the moment they were happening, and sometimes only recognizable in hindsight. When I took time to reflect on the happenings of my day, often I could see that God sent some answers to prayers. Whether it was a person who I desired to see or hear from, or whether it was hearing about someone for whom I had prayed for, that his or her need received an unexpected answer to that need, I always seemed to be surprised. I know I was grateful. I could feel myself growing in faith and trust.

Listening is not my first gift. Listening is hard work. Listening causes me to change my daily life and make room for God. My attitude about my life seems to be “about me.” Listening changes that perception. I started out learning how to listen to God because of what my mother said to me “You should be listening to what God wants you to do with your life.” As I began to strain to “hear” God speak to me, I noticed that I desired to be with Him more. I had a sense in me that said that this is good. When something is good, like a child, I usually will reach for more.

I heard on a television program about monks that they pray continuously and come together many times throughout the day to pray as a community. One monk explained that he felt it was important to listen to what God was saying but that it was equally important to respond to what God was saying. He named this part of the listening as obedience. I could feel my skin ripple. I am not good at obedience. But my spirit desired to understand. I sensed that God allowed me to watch that monk on TV so that I would have information about listening. It was one of His nudgings.

A very important teaching about listening came to me through several books and Christian Catholic and Orthodox evangelists. These teachings were cautioning that it is important to “know God’s voice” and to discern that there were three voices that could be heard. What? Three voices? Uh-oh! I did not know that. There is a scripture that says,

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6)

 What I understood from the teachings about the three voices is this:

a)    A voice that I might hear might not be God; it might be my own voice.

b)   Another voice that I might hear might not be God; it might be the enemy.

c)    Another voice that I might hear might be God.

I did not want to be destroyed because I heard a voice that I thought was God.

I continued to read and study and pray on how to discern which voice was from God. This took time. I am a slow learner and I made many mistakes. These mistakes caused me much frustration. I began to understand and know that I cannot do this discerning of voices unless I was filled with love for God and a heart open to God. When I make room for God in my heart, I am trying to do what that monk said about listening and obedience. Obedience is not one of my strengths. My ego lives in my head. My head has thoughts about “me” and I began to recognize that voice as my own. When it is my own voice, the message will feed my ego, my pride, and lead me away from God. The message will subtly try to sound like God, loving, encouraging, but a tricky sneaky nuance that will put my ego or my pride on the “throne” of my life. Oh yes, I have made many mistakes. Thank God that He loves me still.

This discerning of voices was and still is work. This work is worth it. To know God’s love, recognize His Presence, to receive His graces, is all worth it.
This other voice that I was warned about showed up sometimes. I was usually caught off guard. I was anticipating hearing God’s message and yet this “other” voice snuck in. Often I did not recognize the other voice until I reflected on the “fruit” of the message.

The acts of the flesh are obvious:
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy,
fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
(Galations 5:19-21 NIV)

This other voice from the enemy would try to make me believe that God was speaking to me. The message would sound like it was a blessing but over time the result of the message would be leading me away from God. The teachers of this lesson of the three voices say that the enemy is joyful when we listen to his messages. I do not want to listen to any voice but God’s. Often these sneaky messages would cause me to lose my desire to be with God, to think that I do not need God or that I do not want to be a blessing to others.

This other voice that I really desire to hear, that is God’s voice, is the only one that will bring good fruit into my life:

But the fruit of the Spirit is
love,
joy,
peace,
forbearance,
kindness,
goodness,
faithfulness,
gentleness, and
self-control.
(Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)

When I have heard God’s voice then He is on the throne of my life. I worked at listening, clearing the way for His voice by going to confession and apologizing for my sins. I have and am still learning that my sins get in the way to my hearing God’s messages. He does not love me less but my sins are like thick clouds distorting my vision (hearing).

I am still learning that it is important to “test the waters” of the message that I hear. It is so easy for me to be like a child and instantly react to whatever message I hear. When I have done so, I have found myself having to struggle to get back myself, my faith, my trusting of what I hear.sense that God is pleased when I continue to “work” at listening and discerning His voice.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
   whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
   —if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
   Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me,
   or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
                                                                                (Phillipians 4:8-9 NIV)

 His voice brings me peace, a sense of safety, a sense of love for Him and everyone. I want more.

Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.