"The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out ... and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice." John 10:3b, 4b (ESV)
I was curled up on the corner of our old plaid couch talking with God in the early morning quiet when I heard the pitter-patter of little feet shuffling down the hallway. Soon I felt the warmth of a small body snuggling next to mine, and I opened my eyes to greet my 4-year-old with a smile.
"Mommy?" he whispered. "Were you talking to God?"
I nodded and pulled my firstborn onto my lap.
We settled into a comfortable silence, and I continued my prayers until a curious voice interrupted me once again.
"Mommy, does God talk back?"
My heart lunged with a grateful "yes" before my lips formed the word; then my morning mate asked the question I had wrestled with for years.
"But how do you know it's Him?"
I paused and thought of my own journey of doubt and discovery.
As a child, I'd loved the Bible stories that told of our God in heaven speaking to His children on earth. I'd relished the tales where God spoke in whirlwinds and quiet whispers, through burning bushes and celestial songs. And I'd believed without a doubt that He wanted to speak to me, too. I'd listened for His voice as I went about my days and relished His presence as I responded with my heart.
But as I grew older, I became skeptical. I didn't doubt the Lord could speak. I simply doubted my ability to hear Him clearly. How could I discern His voice from all the thoughts that clamored in my mind? How could I differentiate His holy directives from my own desires?
Eventually, wariness swallowed my childlike confidence, and I stopped expecting God to talk to me in a personal way. Sadly, when I plugged my ears to heaven, my faith shrunk small. Scripture became lifeless words on a page, and my prayers shriveled sluggish and stale.
Then one day I read Jesus' words in John 10:3b and 4b - "The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out ... and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice" - and I wondered if I'd been asking the wrong question all along.
According to Jesus, intimacy is the key to clarity. The more deeply we know God, the more distinctly we recognize His voice.
So perhaps the question that begs an answer as we tune our ears to heaven isn't, "How do we know it's Him?"
But rather, "How well do we know Him?"
From that day on, I began to focus on discovering the depth of my Father's heart rather than worrying about the breadth of my faulty ears.
I read His word with renewed hunger and prayed with expectancy. I studied His names, explored His character and worshipped with abandon. And true to Jesus' words, the more my heart was tied to my Father, the more my ears were tuned to His voice.
The squeeze of a little hand reminded me that my son was still waiting for my answer, so I responded with a question of my own.
"Do you remember yesterday when you were playing outside, and Daddy called you in for dinner?"
"How did you know it was his voice when he hollered from the window?" I probed.
My little boy exhaled a giddy giggle. "‘Cause he's my Daddy," he said with a toothy grin. "And I know him really, really good."
I nodded and returned the smile. Then, I leaned low and whispered in my son's ear: "That's how it is with God, too."
Dear God, I want to know You more intimately so I can hear Your voice more clearly. Show me more of who You are today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 10:27, "My sheep respond as they hear My voice; I know them intimately, and they follow Me." (VOICE)
Psalm 85:8a, "Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints." (ESV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
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