What do you feel is the main voice that constantly competes in your life with God's voice?
The first time I had a conscious thought about my hearing was the day it wasn’t there. At about three-years-old, I was singing rambunctiously in my car seat as my mom drove us to some unremembered location. I still remember the way the light hit the (dirt on the) windows of our old Ford Aerostar. It was some classic Shania Twain song—we lived in Texas at the time—so I bet I didn’t know what half the words meant, but I had a good memory for lyrics and was belting through with a gusto. But I was also tired, so I multitasked: singing while resting my head on the left chair arm. Shockingly, when I picked up my head again, although I was still singing at the top of my lungs, the song itself was at a completely different section than I’d expected—I was singing the words to a different verse entirely. We would learn a few years later that I’m almost entirely deaf in my right ear; when my left ear is blocked, as it was in that fateful memory in the car, the world becomes strangely muted, almost as if it’s underwater.
This is exactly how I find the competition for God’s voice in my heart—because ultimately, it isn’t that God needs to compete with other voices in order to out-yell the static, but that I am so busy singing my own tune that suddenly, when I really begin to listen again, I’m not where I’m supposed to be! In Joshua 1:7-9, God encourages Joshua, “Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” Joshua knew how to ponder and meditate, how to stay in the Word and not just skip through it, because he spent his time in the wilderness lingering in the Presence of God (Exodus 33). It’s not a wonder that the leader who knows how to listen—and listen again and, in abiding, listen—will stay in step with God.
There are entire seasons of my life with the same plot line: I hear something from God and immediately I’m off and scampering away, waving a fond farewell to God, as I forge forward into whatever I think He’s told me to do. But lately, with upward stumbling, I’m learning to abide. These have been my favorite moments with Him, where He not only casts the vision but then, with eagerness, waits for me to ask, “But how?” It’s not that I always have a direct line to heaven or hear booming voices that tell me to “Fear not,” but I know the more I dwell in His presence—in prayer, in scripture—the more He can unfold His promise, along with the heavenly strategies, timing and resources I need. He is the God of vision and the God of the details.
I consider my right ear a blessing. All my life it has taught me not only the difference between hearing and not hearing, but that the best position for listening is side by side. If I am far ahead, I cannot hear. If I am dragging my feet behind, I cannot hear. When I keep pace with Him, there I am best positioned to never go anywhere outside His call.
What changes or shifts when you rely on the voice of God for your everyday life?
The first time I ever experienced an undeniably divine connection was on the G train at midnight. The guy sitting next to me yanked the book I was reading out of my hands—Pastor Phil Pringle’s You the Leader, I highly recommend it—and asked me questions about why and where I go to church. The second time, I was on the subway platform, and a stranger gallantly rescued me from a conversation with a less-than-sober gentlemen by pretending to be my old roommate. By the time we boarded the train together, our conversation divinely shifted to personal testimonies of how God moves in our lives. I’m always floored by these encounters, because I remember that three subway stops earlier, I had no idea how God wanted to use me. A God-appointed connection doesn’t have to happen on the subway—although it’s hysterical how often He uses the MTA—but this House is built on the stories of chance encounters in coffee shops, on street corners, in work lunch rooms, even through social media.
Because it wasn’t part of my church upbringing, I love the phrase, “I’m believing for …” Believing for healing. Believing for a new job. Believing for restoration. While speaking His truth and light is powerful, those words can ring hollow if we don’t live out our belief. Before this year, I professed belief in God’s ability to use divine encounters to draw people near to Him—even in His ability to entangle me in these connections, to use me as a vessel for His glory. But I was content to take whatever God threw my way, like a child satisfied with scraps when the tabletop contains a feast. It’s one thing to say that I believe everyone can flourish in the House of God and that He is the answer everyone searches for, but it’s another thing entirely to align my actions to that truth. This year I’m being challenged to be intentional. We’re scarcely into 2016, but in committing to seeking one divine connection each day—to have daily accountability, to carry a pocketful of invite cards, breathless half the day and praying at every doorway, hoping my divine connection awaits on the other side of every threshold—I’ve never been so uncomfortable or so alive.
In Joshua 3:4, God instructs the Israelite nation to follow the ark—containing His spirit and presence—because, He says, “you have not been this way before.” That is one of my favorite phrases in all of scripture. I pray it often. If I want to live out my belief then I have to burn the bridges to ignoring His voice—and I love that. Leave no escape. Expand your territory. Camping in the middle of familiar is how faith atrophies—slowly but surely, the borders decrease until there’s one small huddle in which to place the throne of Jesus Christ, a tiny dominion in my heart where I’ll let Him rule. But by stepping out into the unknown, full of faith and perhaps a little fear, I am constantly listening and waiting for His word. Because a divine connection is by definition divinely orchestrated and not man-made, I’ve entered a territory where He is my only road map.
I’ve only ever discovered one key to being a consistent listener: live at the outskirts of your comfort zone. Without fail, stepping out in faith makes my heart leap into my throat. But I don’t know if it’s possible to have true faith without divine courage. Step out in faith. He makes you brave.