I am delighted to share another beautiful submission for the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Heather van Warden's reflection on the many ways of hearing God:
To be fully receptive to God, we actually need to use all five of our senses. We receive God not only in “hearing” with our ears, but by feeling, smelling, tasting, and seeing our Maker…and then, by combining all those senses into the true receiving of our Lord. While I think we all need to receive God in this way, I believe that God communicates with each of us, in the way in which we, as individuals, will be most receptive. God comes to us. God provides us with the tools to receive what is being offered. We need to do nothing but be open to receive. The importance of God’s provision came to me in our small group when we were doing Lectio on Luke 1:26-28. The angel was sent; God sent…and Mary just obeyed and listened. God does it all…even opening our eyes, ears, and heart for us.
For me, the best venue to receive God is in silence…or at least infused with choral music. Music with words that I can understand, interferes with my receiving. It distracts. However, the blended chorus of a harmony of voices singing in a language I cannot understand, encompassing every sound, tone, and volume known to man and woman, infuses me with God, with peace. It puts my senses on hyperalert…yet not a hyper that makes my mind busy…a hyper that has all my senses at the ready. Longing. Yearning to hear the Voice.
A week after attending a retreat, I found myself longing to hear God and to receive guidance, as I had been able to, the entire time of the retreat. It had been such an intimate time with our Saviour. A time like I had never experienced before…a closeness. The touch, the warm, soft flesh accepting a kiss on the cheek; the tender hand taking mine and leading the way…I miss you Lord! I miss that time. However, God in his mercy has been so gracious, and just as our Lord came, sent, and provided to Mary at and after the Anunciation, so I have been graciously “spoken” to as well. The “words” are of a love, guidance, and a presence, that I have experienced through all five of my senses.
As I have devoured Buechner, and at times pushed him away, I have seen that God has met me wherever I have been. I have been met in words. Words are what reach my soul. Words are how God speaks to me and how I speak to God. While I process the words in my head (my very precious “headtime” as I call it), those words come from my heart…From God, from the Creator’s home in my soul. Words meet me in silence and words come from me silently, although my heart weeps sometimes with those words, my heart also rejoices and almost bursts with joy at those words. The emotions are silent, though not invisible. Anyone around me can see the “beyond time” look in my eyes, can see the glow from my face, the change in my posture when God speaks to me… particularly, at this time in my life, through Buechner. Buechner, for me, is the perfect vehicle to reach and connect with God through both beautiful and dark language. To my dismay, Buechner does not only evoke in me feelings of contentment. Having devoured every word of “The Sacred Journey” for dinner, I felt heartburn from “Telling Secrets” and a little reflux from “Now and Then.” I was ready to dismiss these books but Mark, my Spiritual Advisor, reminded me that God speaks to us in our aversions as well as our attractions. So what was it that put me off the other two books? The “Sacred Journey” is such a book of praise. It is so full of worship, so full of beautiful images of God and his relationship with us. These are easy and joyful words to digest. In “Telling Secrets” however, the book is much darker. It is not so much about the beauty of the Lord, as it is about our darkness and how God is there too. It is about looking to your past for answers to guide your future. While my past has not been terrible, I have had my share of depression, of unfulfilled dreams, of heartbreak, of abuse, of loneliness. I have realized in this exercise, that I am afraid of looking back. I am afraid of confronting the past, afraid of experiencing abuse again, but as Buechner says “…the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed by the holy power that life itself comes from.”(p.46, The Sacred Journey)
When I finally opened up that security gate, God was able to take up residence in my heart. Now, we have the on-going job of homeowners, to decorate and repair the home, TOGETHER. If that is to go smoothly, I need to slow down and listen. I need to spend time in contemplation of my Maker and the work going on inside me. God has a much better idea of how the house should look than do I but the plan is for us to share the work. It is up to me to be receptive to the suggestions that the Maker sends my way."
Heather is a writer, historian, genealogist, avid researcher, a student of Christian theology, and a bookworm. She is the author of “Salvador’s Questions” – a Christian Children’s book about Heaven. She is currently researching an historical account of her forefathers and working on her blog, alightedpathsite.com