When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
I took a different path from my usual road-less-travelled route in the forest. I was talking to God about some of the many concerns on my heart, one of them being as essay I promised someone on “hearing God’s voice.” I explained to God that it’s rather embarrassing to talk about hearing his voice if I can’t hear it. I haven’t heard much from you lately, Lord, in case you haven’t noticed.
Then the thought came, “Meditate on scripture.” OK. Which scripture?
“Be still and know that I am God,” came immediately to mind.
That’s one I chose to meditate upon a few years ago – because it was short and easy to memorize. Was that thought just from me, because that verse was familiar, or was it from God? There was no audible voice answering my question. I don’t know. This is frustrating.
My meditation didn’t last a full minute before I was back obsessing about whether or not I said the right thing, or if I remembered to pray for everyone on my list, or why so many jets from the south seem to be flying over our remote valley lately, or if I left that important prescription I can’t find in the bottom of a shopping bag, or if I got the garden planted in time and ISIS! Oh, God, your people are being slaughtered! How do I pray about this?
It can be very noisy in my head.
I came around the bend near the meadow by the second lake and saw a group of people down in the grass looking like they were searching for something. I asked someone what was happening and a woman explained to me that they were digging out noxious and invasive weeds.
“Dalmatian toadflax and St. John’s wort mostly,” she told me. “There’s a bit of knapweed which of course is noxious, but today we are mostly concerned with other invasive weeds. St. John’s wort has its uses but it doesn’t belong in this environment and will soon take over if it’s not rooted out.
I went away thinking about them. In nearly thirty years of walking in these woods I have never run into any sizable group of people doing anything but walking dogs and giving visitors a tour. I’ve seen evidence of bush parties, but never evidence of parties of environmentalists digging invasive weeds out of the meadow. I felt I needed to pay attention.
I walked down another shaded trail thinking about invasive weeds and remembered some one-issue people I’ve known. I began composing a blog in my head about the way some people with a cause based on a perfectly good justice issue, or an over-looked aspect of theology, or an unmet practical need in the world “invade” an environment so that other people’s favourite causes are not given space.
I decided to sleep on it and woke with a song in my head that I have not thought of in many, many years.
Lord, I have shut the door, Speak now the word
Which in the din and throng could not be heard;
Hushed now my inner heart, whisper Thy will,
While I have come apart, while all is still.
“What are you saying, Lord?”
“It’s not about them.”
“It’s about you. Your thoughts are like noxious and invasive weeds. Some are just bad, and although many concerns are useful in their place, when your anxious thoughts invade our quiet place you can’t hear. Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalm 94:19 came to mind: When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.
It’s not that I don’t need to pray about these things; I do! It’s when they, and the fear attached, invades my inner heart, the place where I have invited Christ to dwell, that they multiple and drown out his voice – his consolations. God is speaking all the time but unless I learn to be still, I’ll have trouble hearing him – and even when I do, I may make the mistake of thinking it’s for them and not me.
Sometimes hearing God’s voice is not only about making connections, it’s about learning to turn down the volume on noxious and invasive noises and root out obsessive thoughts that invade the sacred space so his consolations have room to thrive.