Listening up

How can we hear God's clear direction and guidance?

In order to earn some extra money during a December school break, our son went to work in a boat yard, dry-docking boats on a coastal island. I went with him to keep him company and to make the hearty meals he needed while doing this work in the blustery New England weather.

One day, while stacking boats with the help of a crane, he told me he distinctly heard a voice say, "Move your hand," which he did immediately.

In the next instant, the boat being stacked slipped from the crane's hold and fell into place right where his hand had been resting while he waited to guide the boat into place. His response to the alert was so quick that only the tip of the thumb of his work glove was caught between the boat and the frame until he pulled it free. We were both grateful for what we believed was a divine message keeping him safe and for his obedience to it.

The obedience we strove for while bringing up our children was not an unthinking conformity to personal will. Our desire was for each of us to learn more of our relation to the divine Parent, God, and the joy that comes from listening to and obeying an unmistakable Father-Mother who loves and cares for us.

We were endeavoring to teach them that they could always turn to and rely on this divine presence no matter where they found themselves and no matter what the circumstance. This reliance comes with practice, though, in our everyday lives.

A Bible verse puts it this way: "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you" (Jer. 7:23).

This verse tells me that God's motive in requiring our obedience to Him is "that it may be well." In other words, it is because He loves us. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, "Obedience is the offspring of Love ..." ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 117). And this Love is another name for God, Himself.

What can we do to better hear clear direction and guidance? I've found that lessons can be learned in small, everyday instances. Then, when the bigger occasions come along, we're prepared.

For our son, it came from learning to obey his parents. For me, it might mean compliance with traffic laws, greater order in my home, or remembering to put others first. These day-to-day goals are attainable. One of the ways Jesus taught this point was in the parable of the talents in Matthew. It emphasizes being "faithful over a few things" with the promise of being made "ruler over many things" (Matt. 25:21).

Over the years there have been times when I clearly heard direction or had a strong intuition about something and either chose to ignore it or wasn't alert enough to recognize it. I've learned that these are avoidable mistakes; I can take more care when I get this sort of direction. It has made me more alert so that I can respond to these guiding thoughts. I think of them as shortcuts to real and lasting happiness.

Unquestioning, childlike faith in God helps us find the way to closeness and complete reliance on divine wisdom. It takes love and humility – the very qualities God has instilled in us. In order to fully use these qualities, sometimes we need to silence the noise of ego or self-centeredness. The willingness to be moved by God will improve our listening ability and guide us safely wherever we are, whatever we're doing.

O send out thy light
and thy truth:
let them lead me.

Psalms 43:3

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