When we moved to Mexico City right after language school, we met another missionary couple who were new to the city as well. They had not gone to language school though, because the wife was deaf and no one at the school could teach her Spanish sign language! That was a problem that had never once crossed my mind! But my new friend was amazingly adept at reading lips. She was also quite verbal. Her language was not at all clear speech, mostly a combination of grunts, clicks and half words. But if I focused my attention, listening intently to her, I could understand her. We talked for hours!
Another friend of ours noticed this and asked me, “How can you understand her?” I thought about it. The woman who asked the question had grown up in a completely bilingual home. She had never had to struggle to understand anyone. She had never trained herself to focus intently when someone was speaking. She didn’t need to watch someone’s mouth while they spoke. So naturally she was quickly frustrated and easily deterred by the amount of work it required to have a conversation with a deaf woman.
I, on the other hand, had just spent a year in language school, intently focusing on sounds, mouth positions, non-verbal gestures and contextual clues. These were things I focused on daily in my communications with Mexicans as well. So focusing on a conversation with my deaf friend didn’t seem that much different to me. I was able to enjoy her company even though it required effort. I feel blessed for having known her while we lived there.
Learning to listen to God’s voice is not that much different. It requires us to shut up and listen intently. It requires us to focus, sometimes with great effort. And sometimes we learn God’s voice by looking back to our past and seeing how God dealt with us before. We learn through hind sight. Most of the time, when God speaks to me, I know it instantly. But sometimes I’m not so focused. I hear a lot of “voices” from my culture, my own worries, my surroundings. Sometimes I am easily distracted. I must shut off the other “voices”, the white noise around me, and use concerted effort to focus on hearing God’s voice. In those times, it takes me a while to catch on.
Learning to listen requires us to stop talking and focus. But the Bible says that the Sheep know the Shepherd’s voice and won’t follow any other voice. If you want to learn to hear God’s voice, you can! Follow close to the Shepherd and listen daily. Train your ear to hear, train your heart to focus. Learn the Shepherd’s voice so you won’t be lead astray by a stranger’s voice.