I would like to talk to you today about our inner condition. About how we prevent ourselves from hearing the Word of God. About how we must clear away the darkness of the inner eyes before we can properly know the Truth.
I would like to start this discussion by looking at the story of Samuel and how he heard God for the first time in his youth. The story can be found in 1 Samuel 3.
In this chapter, Samuel was only a child and had never heard the Word of the Lord. In fact we are told that visions were rare at that time, that people had forgotten how to hear God’s Word, much like today.
This story is particularly relevant because we have a glimpse into what the first time he heard God’s call was like. Just like so many of us, he did not recognize the voice of the Lord when he first heard it, in fact it was not until Eli, his spiritual mentor, told him that it was the Lord who was calling him that he was able to respond.
And even so, the words he spoke in response to God were those of his mentor, he needed guidance the whole way. And so do we rely on one another to guide us, we need the guidance of our elders and those who are wise in order to progress fully on our spiritual journey.
Yet, while Samuel relied on Eli, he still spoke to the Lord alone, Eli sent him to lie in his bed and answer the call in solitude.
Eli anxiously asked Samuel what the message from God was, because he had not heard it himself. There is a paradox in this. That we must come to the Lord alone, yet we rely on one another to get there. The spiritual journey is both solitary and communal, we must approach God as individuals and as a community.
God has been calling out to prophets since time immemorial and I wonder if, perhaps, God is calling out to all of us as well. Not to say that we are all destined to be great leaders of our people like Samuel but that God has a mission for all of us and is constantly calling us to it.
I believe that is true, I think that in every moment God is reaching out to us and trying to open our eyes to the charges and prophesies we are destined for.
We often speak about searching for God, about having to strive towards what is divine, and I believe there is truth in that. I believe that we need to be constantly searching for God and trying to discern his will for our lives. But I also think that God is searching for us.
God is constantly working to have us realize him and see him. But there is something that keeps us from hearing him, there is something that prevents us from hearing his voice guiding us and speaking to us. I believe that we ourselves are the only thing standing between us and God.
In order for our hearts to properly hear God we need to not only set our heads aside and listen to his word without the intermediary of our minds but we also need to heal our hearts so that his word falls on an empty canvas.
When our souls are filled with heartache, desires, desperation, loneliness, anger, and pride those things taint the message and we hear God through them as if they were a lens distorting the true word.
We need to be dedicated to God and his plan for our lives and in that we need to be willing to look inwardly and identify those things which we have allowed to stand between us and the divine message of Heaven. We have to gather up all those things which taint the voice of God and make it hard for us to understand it and we must cast them off.
Marcus Garvey was a Rastafarian prophet and a national hero in Jamaica, he was quoted as saying
“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body none but ourselves can free the mind”.
While he had a multitude of layered nuances and meaning in that quote and was originally talking about a post slavery nation and how the citizens of Jamaica were still enslaved in their minds despite having their bodies freed, I think that we can take his thought and relate it to this idea that it is our minds which contain our spirits and separate us from God.
Marcus Garvey was saying that while another person can make your body free it is only we who can make our minds free and that so long as our minds are not free they will be the slaves of another who manipulates them. He hit the nail on the head with that one. Yet, here is a strange dynamic in this as well. While it is our minds which shackle our souls it is also our minds which will liberate them.
It is when we allow ourselves to step out of our own thoughts and observe them as if we were a third person that we can truly gain the perspective to understand our own enslavement and begin to dismantle the chains we have wrapped around our own beings.
It is in a careful, methodical, and critical viewing of our own inner nature and mental tendencies that we are able to sift through the piles of junk we have stored in our minds and create a path which allows our mind to receive direction from our heart. To no longer allow our heart to be burdened by the mind so that its attention may be given fully to God.
It is a great act of faith to allow God to speak to us without the intermediary of the mind. Our mind is what allows us to operate in this world and we need it in a very real way to complete even the most basic of tasks in life. And since we have such a real and necessary dependency on it we are very reluctant to accept anything which has not been scrutinized by it.
A man named Dallas Willard wrote a book called Hearing God and in it he makes this observation:
“Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by the ease of its workings. Most of what we think we see as the struggle of faith is really the struggle to act as if we had faith when in fact we do not.”
When true faith is realized it allows God’s word to flow through us freely. When we struggle with faith or with hearing God it is only because we have not reached a place of trusting God with our complete beings. We can make a conscious decision to have faith and rationally accept it and say to the world that we are people of faith, but it is not that easy, we don’t accomplish our goal that way.
In order for faith to become real and ingrained in the very fabric of our beings we need to go through that process of self-examination and work through all our intellectual blocks which stand as obstacles to our faith. It can be a lengthy and painstaking process to really look inwardly and examine yourself critically but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties.
And of course to do this we must be willing to be still and practice that most beautiful art of silence. For it is only when we have stilled the world outside of us that we can begin to still the world within us and it is in stillness that we find serenity.
And perhaps this is why silence is so uncomfortable for so many people. In silence we are left to look at ourselves, we can no longer distract our thoughts with the situation or people around us. Silence is like a mirror to our souls, we are forced to look at ourselves and often times in those moments we come to realize how uncomfortable we can be in our own skin.
By facing that discomfort and discerning its nature we can slowly become more comfortable in ourselves and then in turn start to become comfortable with God. Because it is through knowing ourselves that we can begin to know God.
Silence is the mirror that shows us our own souls and our souls are in fact a mirror of God. So if we wish to hear God we must be willing to experience silence and become comfortable with stillness. The Lord himself told us through the Psalmist in Psalm 46
“Be still and know that I am God”
When we can hear God calling out to us we must, like Samuel, respond in a way which is indicative to receiving the full message God has for us. Samuel replied to the Lord
“Speak, for your servant is listening”
Once we have cleared the space and removed the obstacles so that God’s voice can make its way through to us we have to acknowledge the divine before the conversation can continue. We have to not only wash the mirrors which allow us to hear God, but we must actively engage with the message we are receiving and we must do it in a humble way.
“Your servant is listening”
We must also receive God’s message as a servant. We are only so blessed as to talk with God when we are able to kneel before Truth and do its work in the manner which it instructs us.
Essential to being close to God is the humility that is inherent in a deep and genuine faith. For when we come to trust God completely we accept nothing as wise but what God has given us to do and we are glad to have whatever God has given us to work with.
It is that trust which is key to our being sincere disciples of Christ and I implore you all to seek within yourselves that which prevents that trust from being pure and to cast it into the fire.
Accepting as truth only that which God has imprinted directly upon your heart and dedicate every moment of your life directly to God’s service. In this there is great peace and healing not only for yourself, but also for the world as a whole.
So I encourage you to sit by yourself for as long as you can. Entertain long periods of silence and reflect on your own life and the way you have lived it. Don’t be afraid to look at the causes of your own attitudes and behaviours. Question everything you know about yourself and let it all come crumbling down. Be an empty canvas so that God has something clear to paint on. Make your life a canvas and be open to hear God’s word.
Be a prophet in a world desperately in need of guidance.
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