I have an insanely strong smell recognition mechanism. You know what I’m talking about? Have you ever smelled ‘Grandma’s house’ somewhere other than at Grandma’s house and then all of these memories come flooding back? One day my friend tried to sneak into my dorm room on my birthday to hide a present under my covers. Let me tell you, it’s a weird feeling to smell that your friend had been in your room knowing she wasn’t when you left. Okay, maybe I’m the only one…annnyway, hold that thought. Let’s go back to the belly of the…..whale, let’s start a little before that (see what I did there? 🙂 ).
The story of Jonah is a familiar one to most of us—too familiar perhaps. Obviously Jonah’s first mistake was not listening to the voice of God—and that’s the moral of most Jonah-themed talks. That’s great, and it’s a super important topic to discuss and cultivate in our lives. However, for me, the saying “listening to the voice of God” has become a bit cliche—a powerful phrase or lesson that has somewhat lost it’s meaning in the overuse. This year God has been continually giving me something I didn’t know I needed but am so grateful for now—meaning in the cliches. So, in order to really grasp this, I replaced ‘hear’ with ‘smell’ and ‘voice’ with ‘nudge’ because it interrupts the cliche brain wave that capsizes the message. It also puts a little twist on the meaning. Hearing the voice of God reminds me a lot of recognizing scents. It’s cultivated. It’s subtle. And it’s based on experience. I think that sometimes talking about hearing the voice of God can be downright discouraging. If you’re anything like me, you’ve read the story of Jonah and thought: “I’d love to obey God! I’m ready! Tell me what you want, God! Just *tell* me! If only I could hear what God wanted me to do and know for sure that it was Him saying it, I’d do it! Likety split.” And a lot of times, it’s not necessarily that we don’t want to *do* what God is telling us (sometimes it is and that’s an entirely other conversation), but we’re just trying to figure out *what* he’s telling us and how to make decisions that glorify Him. It’s difficult. Because while some people have testimonies about hearing the audible voice of God, and we read stories like Jonah’s in the bible—I’ve never experienced that before and I know many others who haven’t either. How do you hear the voice of God? Or rather, how do you smell the nudge? One word: trust.
Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Isn’t that so encouraging? This verse represents the loving responsibility that God takes. Notice He said “I know them”. There is something fundamentally beautiful about the relationship that God wants to cultivate with you. Often times, we stress and worry over making sure that we are exactly where God wants us. That part—the ‘exactly where God wants us’ isn’t a bad desire; it’s the other part—‘stress and worry’. Quote book time: “Worry is like a rocking chair—it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.” These fears and worries often lead to a stand-still life out of concern that we will choose the ‘wrong’ option. My friend, let me tell you something that has changed my life and my relationship with God forever: you cannot mess up God’s plan for your life while seeking Him. You are not that powerful. Jesus says “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It’s a freedom relationship, a trusting, peaceful, secure relationship. Believe me, He wants the best for you even more than you do. If you remember nothing else from here, hold onto that one sentence. Just think about that for a moment. It’s not a matter of Him sitting back and watching you trying your level best to navigate life. Oh no! He’s in the thick of it with you. Do you trust Him to stop you when you might take a wrong turn? Do you believe Him when He says “I know the plans I have for you” and do you trust that He is working to fulfill those just as much as you desire them? “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Just like I can recognize my childhood library or know the owner of that jacket because of the scent, the same subtle recognition can come when God nudges. Oh and the more I experience those little nudges, the more my scent recognition mechanism picks up.
This isn’t a ‘how-to’ blog post where I tell you how to hear the voice of God and how to follow it. It’s an ‘If you resonate with this—I feel you, I hear you, and God does too. Be encouraged with this:’ kinda thing. One: Trying to “hear the voice of God” is a burden we often place on ourselves unnecessarily when He has already promised to guide us and lead us. Take steps towards the opportunities He has brought to you that promise to glorify Him. He wants the best for us even more than we want it for ourselves and He will do whatever it takes to get us there. Two: Realize that recognizing those nudges from God is a cultivated experience. Give yourself grace and be patient as you learn to discern His voice. Pause and take time to recognize it. “He will never leave you, nor forsake you.