When we sit in silence on Sunday morning, Quakers often like to say that we’re “listening.” But what does that still small voice sound like?
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- How do you hear the voice of God?
- Deborah Suess says, “Most of us don’t frequently have these like, dynamic mystical experiences, although they happen.” What does she mean? Have you had something that you would call a “dynamic, mystical” experience?
What I’ve found again and again is that there are moments where I am able to make enough space to listen to that still, small voice—to that inward voice of Christ that leads me into a different way of living. A different way of loving in the world.
Quakers and the Still, Small Voice
The first Friends—especially George Fox—the core of their message is that “Christ has come to teach his people himself.” It’s not a theological thing: Friends experienced unmediated discipleship. Just like Peter followed Jesus and heard Jesus’ voice, got the teachings direct, had to encounter Jesus’ personality for good and for ill—that’s what Friends were experiencing. That was the inward teacher.
Fascinatingly, just like the Holy Spirit spoke through the apostles at the Pentecost in such a way that everybody heard the Spirit speaking in their own language, so, too, the Christ Spirit in all ages has been speaking in ways that people could understand in their situation and in their times.
The Still, Small Voice
So the still, small voice is about us understanding that when we still ourselves and quiet ourselves and, I think part of it is making yourself not be the center of the story, like that I am not the center of the story…
I think it’s helpful to remember that for most of us, we don’t see writing on the wall. Most of us don’t hear a vocal leading. Most of us don’t frequently have these, like, dynamic mystical experiences, although they happen.
And so we have to be quiet. We have to lean forward and say, “Oh, yes…”
What We Hear When We Listen
When I listen—when I really listen—I am listening to hear God speak. I am listening for God’s voice. God’s signal. What that means to me is the signal that moves me to aliveness.
So the still, small voice might be consolation. It also might be reproof. It also might be inspiration or challenge or encouragement. I get a sense of a way forward and a comfortable-ness in my body-mind-spirit which is saying “yes, that’s not just you”—although I have to be a part of that co-creating—but that’s God speaking to me. The inward Christ, the inward teacher.
Now, that inward teacher we believe has been present in all ages and in all people, because the inward teacher is another way of talking about the inward light. And that’s the Christ Spirit at work in all ages, if you follow John, which Friends like to do… the gospel of John I mean.
The Challenge of Listening
It’s been my experience that the most clear invitations to live in a way that is about love and wholeness come in a voice that is very easy to ignore, that it’s very easy for me to let my ego, let my fears, my anxieties, the ways that I’m bound up govern the way I live my life.
It’s almost as if the energy of the soul, in all of its power and its richness and its movement… that which has the capacity to create universes, my belief is that we have a tendency to suppress it.
…and so often times I think it’s important that we learn to quiet enough to discern the Spirit Christ’s pattern of speaking to us.
Finding a way to really tap, locate, that energy and allowing it to come forth… it’s a power. It’s a power. And that power, in order to break through the ego structures and the racisms and the classism and the homophobia-isms, and all those isms—in order for Spirit to come through that, there is this aliveness and power that pushes up and out and the body quakes. That’s one way of accessing it.
Putting the Still, Small Voice at the Center of Our Lives
Putting the still, small voice at the center looks like not doing anything until it’s clear—until you’re truly led.
Even if it’s telling me I must do something that I’m not happy about maybe engaging in, or even if that is a discomfort place, I still have the sense of comfort and calm. There’s a sense of a deeper peace that accompanies that, those commands or those encouragements.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.