From time to time, people are invited to play a game called “two truths and a lie” as an icebreaker. The premise is simple, you make three statements, two of which are true about yourself and one of which is something you have made up. People then try to guess which of the statements is false. I recently did this with my parish and told them 1) I was once hit by a deer…while running. 2) I have made it to the basecamp of Everest 3) I can speak Japanese. Can you guess which one is the lie?
Something similar happens in the discernment process when we are trying to distinguish the voice of God from other voices we hear in our heads when we are praying or meditating on something. Often our brains are spinning in all sorts of directions as we attempt to “figure it out.” Typically this becomes frustrating and we may be tempted to give up, because it seems like there is no clarity. So how do we know what God says to us?
The first voice is the voice of truth about the reality of the moment that we are living in. Instead of imagining God asking the question “What’s going on?”, imagine God asking you the question “Where are you?”. The answer isn’t a physical location, but rather an interior disposition: “I’m afraid, I’m happy, I’m angry, I’m excited, I’m lonely, etc.” This is our voice relating the truth about where we are to God. Attached to this truth will come two other voices, one of consolation and invitation, and one of discouragement and accusation.
Consider this example. When we struggle with a particular sin in our lives, we become acutely aware of our own weakness and inability to self-help. “I’m a sinner, and I’m weak” is a true statement that we can voice. Now comes two replies: “Yes, you are weak, so come to me, and I will give you rest. Abide with me. Remain in my love.”; and the second voice; “Yes, you are weak, and you’ll never be able to overcome this, if people knew about this, they wouldn’t love you. You should hide, withdraw, give up.”
Notice that both responses begin with a truth, but one voice answers with an invitation, the other, an accusation. The fruit of the voice of God is the fruit of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The other leads to restlessness, unease, division, doubt and despair. We are called to receive and respond to the voice of invitation (God) and to renounce the voice of the accuser. “Jesus, in your name I renounce the lie that … Come Holy Spirit, seal the voice of truth on my heart.”
The more attention we pay to this dynamic, the more familiar with the voice of Jesus we become. “Anyone who listens to the truth hears my voice (John 18:37),” and “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27-28).”
And in answer to the first question….I’ve never been to Everest.
Father Martin is pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Ellisville.