Listening for God’s Holy Whisper
What I learned when I heard the words I didn’t want to hear
By Sherry Surratt
Some days we need a cheerleader … Someone to say, “Keep going, you can do this!” when we feel like giving up.
Then there are other days—days when we need that gentle voice of encouragement from someone who knows us well. That’s when we need someone to say, “I know this feels hard, but you did the right thing.”
And then there are the days when you just need someone to tell you the truth.
This was one of those days. You see, a conversation hadn’t gone well. Someone on my team came to me with a problem deep from the heart, and it was a problem with me.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to hear it. During the conversation I could feel my body tense. I could hear my words getting hard. I couldn’t stop myself as I took a turn around the bend to an ugly destination: defensiveness.
After the conversation, I felt defeated. Why did I again feel the need to go down the path of justification? I had responded by saying “But that’s not what I meant! I don’t understand how you could think that.” I could have responded with even the slightest trickle of humility. I could have said, “I’m sorry. I can see how that hurt your feelings.”
But I didn’t.
What Is God Whispering?
Going down this path again, even though I didn’t want to, made me feel sad and disappointed.
As I talked it over with my friend Sibyl, she didn’t launch into how wonderful I was or how perfectly human it was to have this response. She didn’t immediately tell me everything was going to be fine. She didn’t tell me not to feel bad. She just listened. She sat with me and didn’t rush my words, giving me freedom to empty my heart of selfish indignation and the prideful resentment of being misunderstood. Then she made an observation, almost in the form of a question: “I wonder what it is that God wants to whisper to you.”
Whispers are so gentle. Sometimes the very breath tickles your ear and you have to get still and lean in. Whispers are intimate, words meant just for you and you alone. They are compelling. Come closer. I want to share this with you.
Sibyl’s response took me off guard. Whispers from God? No Sibyl, what I really want is for you to tell me I’m not in the wrong here.
But Sibyl was leading me a different way. She knew I felt hurt in my heart. She also knew that in the midst of conflict, in the very center of relational pain, God has things he wants to teach us. She encouraged me to slow down, saying, “Get still, Sherry. Listen to the voice that matters. There are things God wants to say to you. Lean in to the gentleness, the very roots that God grounded you with so long ago. It’s not me you need to hear from. It’s him.”
This was truth. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was what I needed. So often, I run to friends who love me when my heart or feelings are hurt. I want their affirmation, their confirmation, their very words to heal my bruises. Tell me I’m okay. Tell me I’m right to be angry. Tell me you’re on my side!
Sibyl’s words reminded me that God’s holy whispers were the words I really needed to hear. It’s those whispers straight from God’s heart that give my soul the roots to grow and the wings to fly. Sometimes God has so much more to say than “You’re okay.”
Sometimes he wants to work on my attitude, to form me into the person he knows I can be. Sometimes he wants to whisper what my anger really means—that it’s a reflection of my pride and self-centeredness. God’s whispers aren’t shouts of condemnation. They are quiet and compelling, an invitation to come and be still. But it’s an invitation I’ll miss if I’m not careful. Come and listen. Come and grow.
Lean into the whispers. He has things to say.
Sherry Surratt is the Director of Parenting Strategy for Orange Family Ministry. She is the former CEO of MOPS International and the author of several books, including Brave Mom, Beautiful Mess, and Just Lead. You can connect with her online at SherrySurratt.com or follow her on Twitter at @SherrySurratt.
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