Learning to Recognize His Voice
by Alicia Bruxvoort
I was curled up on the corner of our plaid couch, seizing the early-morning silence to talk with God, when my son’s warm body cuddling next to mine interrupted the conversation. I opened my eyes to greet Lukas with a hug.
“Mommy?” he whispered. “Are you talking to God?” “Yes, honey,” I replied as I kissed his tousled hair, “I am.” I closed my eyes to continue my prayer.
Soon, a curious voice interrupted, “Mom?”
“Does God talk back?”
My heart responded long before my mouth formed the words: ” Yes, buddy, God talks back.”
Lukas’s blue eyes grew wide as he stammered, “But how do you know it’s him?”
Help me, Lord, I prayed silently, attempting to formulate an answer. How could I explain recognizing God’s voice when I was still discovering it for myself?
I’ve been a believer since I was ten, and I’ve always loved the Bible stories that portray a relational God. I knew God spoke to Mary through an angel and to the apostle Paul through a blinding light; I believed he longed to speak to me as well. But as I grew older, my childlike confidence faltered. How could I discern God’s gentle whispers from my desires masquerading as godly guidance?
A DIVINE PROGRESSION
In his book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer describes how the average person learns to recognize God’s voice: “First, a sound as a presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible but still far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures and that which had only been a sound or at best a voice now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and as clear as the word of a dear friend.”
A few years ago, after moving to a new community, I answered the phone and heard a vaguely familiar voice invite my children and me to the park.
Not wanting to embarrass myself or the mystery caller, I asked for directions and hoped I’d recognize her face once I got to the park. Sure enough, as my children tumbled out of the van, I spotted a woman I’d met at church.
A-ha! I thought as I returned her friendly wave. So it was her!
My first encounters with God’s voice were much like fielding that phone call from a vaguely familiar friend. My heart felt his “gentle nudge,” but I was unable to decipher specifics. I proceeded in faith and hoped to recognize God more clearly in the process.
While seeking our first jobs out of college, my husband and I stumbled upon an opportunity to teach in Austria. We prayed for wisdom and eventually felt God give us the go-ahead. We accepted the job, moved overseas, and anticipated a romantic European adventure.
Months later, isolated by language barriers and weaiy from challenging job conditions, we questioned if we’d heard God correctly. Only in retrospect did we recognize the ways God used that experience to solidify our young marriage and prepare us for the difficult years to come, as Rob’s commitment to medical school (which coincided with our initiation into parenthood) required long hours. With hindsight, we recognized
God’s purpose for our time in Austria and finally said with confidence, “So it was him!” . . .