For the last two weeks I’ve worked with two groups of young adults – 30 one week, 20 the other. My role – with resources like the gospel of Mark and our workbook (Your Ears Will Hear) – was to facilitate sessions focused on embracing a lifestyle of listening to God. The leaders of CMU’s (Canadian Mennonite University) discipleship program called OUTTATOWN value our training geared to help young adults hear the voice of God.
So we listened for God’s voice together. We became familiar with several common ways people have listened to God through the centuries and we gave it a shot. Both weeks included a “silent day” of solitude for the students and lots of other opportunities to listen for God’s voice. As it turned out, we focused on two biblical pictures that helped us understand what it is like to hear God – a gentle whisper (I Kings 19:11-13) and small seeds (Mark 4:1-20).
As we listened we agreed that God speaks on his own schedule and that when he does it is often surprising. Sometimes we hear when we least expect it. Throughout history “the secret of the kingdom” seems to be that “the kingdom comes secretly” (Tim Geddert). So if Tim is right, we agreed the need for people to learn to listen carefully is accented. 8 times in Mark 4:1-20 the word (akouo) “listen” or “hear” occurs. The parable focuses on seeds being scattered generously, landing in a variety of places, and in one case growing and multiplying out of good soil. I like to emphasize the picture of seeds that helps us to understand what it is like to hear God. Three things about seeds communicate volumes about a life of listening; just as seeds are small, when God speaks it might be small – as small as a whisper. Just as seeds grow, the messages we receive from God can grow into something beautiful. And as seeds multiply, so it is with those who hear – they inspire others.
I’m glad I asked both groups the question; what kind of a God speaks in a gentle whisper? Ashley’s answer was one my favorites: “A God of authority, who could yell at us if he wanted to, but he chooses to speak in a gentle whisper.” I believe that God of authority and intimacy was with us. Here are some things students felt they heard God whispering to them – “Walk with me” or “Trust me”. And on the silent day – “I want you to do what you love today”, and “I’m with you.” Another one heard, “Enjoy simply being with me”. And another, “Let me bring healing to you today”.
I’m grateful for youth who take Jesus at his word and listen with faith for the voice of the Shepherd. The Shepherd who once said, “My sheep hear my voice.”