There are voices that clamor for my attention every day. The news, books, family, friends, scriptures, music, television, and of course, my own internal monologue; each weaving a story about our world, our community, and me. Some days these voices are clear, helpful, guiding, consoling. Other days it’s hard to hear what is life-giving amid the noise. There are also days when the stories about our world, our future, or about who I am seem to be bleak, draining. Today’s scriptures invite me to reflect on the voices I pay attention to in my day to day life.
Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus makes it seem easy listen to his voice! There are days however when I can’t find God’s voice. It’s tough to hear clearly. It’s easy then to slip into an unhelpful story about me: it must be my fault – maybe I’m not listening enough! Perhaps I missed tuning in to the right frequency. I must be a great disappointment to God. A bad sheep. Maybe if I prayed more, or spent more time alone, or did a hundred other things differently, I’d get an A+ grade in listening to God’s voice.
I am learning to catch myself in moments like these, when I find myself weaving a story about my failures as a follower of Jesus. I try to remember that hearing God’s voice isn’t about acing a test, or catching God’s broadcast on the right channel. Rather, hearing God’s voice is about being in an ongoing relationship of loving attentiveness. Jesus speaks of mutual love and understanding between the shepherd and the sheep. Hearing. Knowing. Following. I hear Jesus remind me, from the Gospel today: “No one can take [my sheep] out of my hand.” Maybe that “no one” includes me – can I stop disqualifying myself from relationship with God? Can I trust that God holds me close, even especially on days when I feel far away?
I’m learning also that God’s voice may never come in perfectly clearly to my ears – rather, like the disciples in the first reading, we’re called to be attentive to God’s Spirit moving in our world, in our community, even in unexpected ways, and to respond to the grace we see unfolding in our midst. Listening together, like we see the church doing in the Acts of the Apostles, might be the key to deepening relationship with God.
Today I desire to trust that God is always in conversation with me, and with all of us, holding us close in the palm of God’s hand. Today I desire to join with the Psalmist who sings to the Lord: “My home is within you.” Maybe on the days where it’s hardest for me to hear, all that matters is that I keep up my part of the conversation, trusting that our dialogue will never end.