Last time, we spoke of how God is someone we can turn to for wisdom and guidance at all times, not just in a church setting. However, having recognized this, the question remains of how we actually listen to Him. As the pilgrim seeks to listen to the guru, so we seek to listen to the voice of God. To do this, we undertake a journey. Not an outward journey, but an inward one, a journey of the heart. What we are looking for is that quiet, solitary place where we can be alone with God to listen to Him or commune with Him. We search for this place by learning to quite our interior life.
In a lot of ways, it is like trying to find still waters. In such waters, we are able to see the ripples of each drop of rain that falls upon it from above. When the water is choppy and agitated, it is next to impossible to see these ripples. In different seasons of our lives it can be easier or more difficult to quiet the waters. However, if we attempt to make the waters quiet through the force of our own efforts, we will not succeed. As soon as we lay hold of them, they are stirred up by our hands. We achieve the opposite of what we aim for. The water will only quiet and become still by God’s work. Thus, our part is to create space and time for the water to settle naturally, according to the acting and order of God. One way we may go about this is to create a set amount of time we spend attending to God. It may be by way of reading Scripture, prayer, meditation, anything that directs our attention to God.
Another thing that we must be aware of while on our journey to hear God is that there other things besides raindrops that cause ripples on the water. The devil and our own sinful desires will throw pebbles into the water to create ripples to confuse and mislead us. These ripples look very much like those created by drops from above, but are counterfeit. To discern the difference, we need to look beneath the surface. The drops from above deepen the waters, deepen our relationship with God. The pebbles have the opposite effect, subtly making the waters shallower and making our relationship with God shallower. St. Ignatius of Loyola referred to this deepening or making shallow as “consolation” and “desolation”.
This is far from comprehensive treatment of the question of how we listen to God; the tip of the iceberg, as it were. God speaks to us in many ways, shapes, and forms. However, when we learn to quiet ourselves and listen to Him, we come to recognize the sound of His voice wherever we may encounter it. We then find that the guru we have sought so ardently has been with us and speaking with us the entire time.