I remember the first and only time I heard the audible voice of God.
It’s one of those things you just tend to remember.
I was desperate.
But I don’t think you have to be as desperate as I was to hear the voice of God. In fact, I think God had spoken to me an insurmountable number of times before this moment, just in a quieter voice.
It was here, where I really heard Him: McClintock’s dormitory floor at the University of South Carolina during the biggest game of the season.
I had a fantastic job, wonderful friends, and a full social life.
I was miserable, lonely, and heartbroken.
(It’s crazy how all of those things can go together, right?)
I wrote in my journal, something to the extent of, “I AM SO SICK OF ALL OF THIS…”
And I heard audibly, “BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”
<Insert the most hysterical college girl freakout moment you can think of and your imagination probably falls short of my reality>.
I replayed the words in my mind, although they didn’t have the same ring. I had heard the voice aloud. I was remembering the echo internally.
I had encountered the living God.
What God speaks He creates (check out Genesis for details). And He had done the same in me in one moment.
I attended a youth conference as a group leader in the weeks that followed this experience and as we were worshiping the first night, I realized that I was singing the words, but I had very little connection to them or to Him because I was so focused on how miserable I was.
A woman preached that night. I walked down to the front of the room. I got down with my face to the ground. It was not a radical experience, although I believe in those, my moment was quiet.
I said, “Lord, I have known you since I was seven. But now, I will do whatever you want me to. I want what You want. Show me what that is.”
I heard “follow me”.
I asked, “Where?”
I had a thought after that statement, and it came so quickly it was just like breathing. The thought was take a year of singleness. The thought had not entered into my mind before that moment and seemed to be covered in peace. I said yes.
And so my journey began.
I use these two stories because it really covers some of the basic ways the Holy Spirit speaks.
The Spirit speaks audibly, in a quiet voice, and sometimes in a voice that is so internal it seems like it is your own thought.
But somehow, you know that it isn’t. It sounds clearer or purer or higher. It sounds like a kiss on the lips from someone you love. And as you walk in greater fullness of the renewed mind that you receive when you believe, you have more thoughts that sound like Him because we have been given the mind of Christ.
Sometimes, however, the Holy Spirit speaks in a tangible or visual way.
When your mind gets renewed and transformed, you have the mind of Christ. Your thoughts are like His thoughts. When you remain in right relationship with Him, you hear Him speak because He is speaking in your heart and in between your ears. “But when he, the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; he will not speak on his own, he will only speak what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 14:26).
The Holy Spirit speaks, not only in words, but in dreams and visions as well.
Just three weeks ago, I was driving to work praying for a student, when an image of the way that student would be healed came to mind. I saw it as if I was watching a daydream. Later that day, he was healed miraculously, by the exact same way that I saw it happen on the way to school. The miracle happened in my classroom and I was able to be apart of God’s plan for healing. It was incredible.
Sometimes the Spirit speaks in a physical presence.
I experience this the most when I am in my car. I am usually half asleep in the mornings and suddenly I will get this full-body-chills-sensation that feels like a bucket of chill bumps are being poured from the top of my head all the way through my legs. The Spirit’s presence is heavy and light at the same time. It feels like joy and love have filled the space. I will sometimes have this sensation several times in a single car ride to school. I have even experienced this in the middle of a store or even in the middle of a lesson before.
The Spirit wants us to always be comforted and to know that we are never, ever alone or without power.
I pray on the way to school, but my prayer looks different now than it did just two years ago. I no longer talk to Him like He isn’t there, but I pray with the Spirit. What I mean is that I sit with the Spirit and have a sort of conversation in images and sometimes words.
I will see something I haven’t seen before in my mind’s eye-- an image that is very specific-- and then the Holy Spirit will reveal to me what it means.
It is much like “praying without ceasing”. I don’t really turn this conversation on and off, it just sort of happens unconsciously now throughout the entire day.
Ultimately, visuals and sensations can sound strange for some people.
I definitely have not experienced both of them throughout my entire journey. But these are some of my favorite and often, most clear, forms of hearing from Him.
The final way that we can hear from Him is through His written word. It is very important that we spend time soaking in His written word because it helps us discern and tune our hearts and minds to Him.
You can somewhat think of it like a classroom.
You have the written word, the textbook. You have the Holy Spirit, an actual teacher who is physically present with you. And the Holy Spirit is much more like Ms Frizzle from The Magic School Bus rather than the one who is about to retire.
This teacher isn’t giving you the same old recycled mess.
The Holy Spirit helps you understand and keep in memory what is in the textbook, but will take you on actual adventures that give you experiences to connect with those lessons you learned in the book. This is the dynamic duo. But it’s also good to have studious classmates who can help you learn as well as mentors who already took the “class” you’re in. Just as much as it’s important for you to have someone you are tutoring because helping someone else learn ultimately makes the material more clear for you.
This is the holistic environment in which we hear and discern His voice.