Lately, I 've been pondering voices. Internal voices, that is, voices that speak to us when we least expect it and don't want to hear them. This has been a struggle for me all my life. I'm not talking about audible voices. There are those among us who fight that very difficult battle each day. Instead, the voices I hear are voices of discouragement, disparagement, and failure. They roll around in my head--far more frequently than they should. Last week I attended a meeting. On the way home and throughout that evening, they started in--"you talked too much, you spoke too soon, you're annoying-- everybody hates you, nobody likes you, maybe you should just go eat worms" (ok, a little hyperbole but I think you get what I mean). I worked at battling those viscious taunts, but it was a long night.
Literature is full of voices, which is one of the reasons I loved being a high school English Lit teacher. Stories allow you to trace the voices other people hear, and understand the role internal voices play in our universal human experience. Truly, everyone hears voices. Some prompt us to be pompous or arrogant (those are generally the voice of insecurity). Some encourage us to complain or be critical (that is the voice of perfectionism). Other voices tear away at our purpose, God's plan for our lives, or the place He's got us planted. All these kinds of voices are the handiwork of Satan himself. All of them are designed to cut deep.
When I was in high school, I had no clue internal voices existed. It never occurred to me that my thinking might be flawed by my own misperceptions. The voices I listened to led me down many paths of pain and rebellion. One of them told me I was massive, gargantuan. Six months later, after eating only 700 calories a day for weeks on end, I had lost 50 pounds. The voice told me to keep pushing, run more, eat less. I needed to be thinner. The dire results of putting my body through such dramatic stress probably triggered my thyroid cancer. How I wish I had not listened.
Jesus has graciously shown me through the years that as one of His sheep, I must listen only to His voice. In John 10: 27-28, He makes it clear,; "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
How do we distinguish God's voice? That is a sanctification skill. The first step is to intake lots of God's Word. Jesus, incarnational in every way, speaks like God speaks throughout the Gospels. He literally talks God's language, and if you read close (might haul out that red-letter edition), you begin to recognize it. Jesus speaks truthfully, gently, and directl, with clarity and calm. His goal in each conversation is life and growth. He does not call people names or undermine their identity (He created them)! Instead, He calls them to abundant life. Understanding who is speaking is the key to understanding who you should listen to. When you hear Jesus--yes, listen everytime. When you hear the mean cutting voice of your Enemy--nope. Never.
Confronting voices, especially the voice of a liar, is a full-on 2 Corinthians 10 kind of battle. The great news is that no matter what type of warrior we are, we've already won. Our victory has been paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. When we focus on Christ, taking the other voices in our lives captive and coming close to Him, we experience victory.
Ironically, another voice that spoke to me has left me slightly deaf. It was a voice that said, as a disc jockey in college, it was a smart plan to put the headphones on and crank up the board all the way when I played my favorite songs. This plan has left me with a hearing deficit that can complicate conversations and comprehension. Sometimes I interrupt people because I can't hear low tones well, and I think they have finished talking. In noisy settings and large groups, I find myself vaguely smiling. This strange face is code. Honestly, I'm not really getting you.
There's not much I can do now about that hearing loss, except ask the Lord to move it. Sometimes I pray for that. A little deafness in certain areas of my mind would prove very helpful indeed.