Seven years ago, my little family traveled down to Guatemala to meet and bring home our newest addition.
Elliana, our then 13-month old daughter, lived in a Spanish-speaking foster home, in a Spanish-speaking city in a Spanish-speaking country her entire short life. That is, until her lovely Spanish-speaking foster mother placed her in my arms in the lobby of the Spanish-speaking Westin.
I cannot speak Spanish…at all. I’m a blond Polish Yankee from northwest Ohio, who happened to take French in high school. The only Spanish I knew prior to traveling to Guatemala was the contents of the Taco Bell menu. Which proved to be rather helpful when we discovered her foster mother affectionately dubbed her “Gordita.”
“Poor Elliana,” I used to think, “She’s not going to understand a word her mother is saying to her.”
And that was true.
The first day or two in Guatemala were pretty pitiful, as far as communication goes. On day-one, the cleaning lady and I stood at the threshold of my room just staring at each other with apologetically furrowed brows, shaking our heads as if to say, “I have no idea what you are saying to me.”
“DO YOU WANT TO COME IN AND CLEAN? NO? DO YOU HAVE CLEAN TOWELS FOR ME? WHAT WAS THAT? I’M SORRY, I SAID, CAN YOU BRING EXTRA BLANKETS!!!!???”
I didn’t know how to ask for room service to bring me warm milk. I didn’t know how to say, “No ice, please.” or “Which way to the grocery store?” or “Is there beef in this?” or “How do I get to the gym?” or “Is there a pizza place around here?”
Life and death issues, clearly.
The good news is that we spent seven days in Guatemala, surrounded by several new friends who were (thank you, Jesus) bilingual. I became a little Spanish-speaking sponge.
“How do you say, ‘I’m sorry?”
“Can you tell her that I love her?”
“How can I tell her she looks beautiful?”
Then, every night after we got Elliana to sleep, my husband and I would cuddle in bed with our other two kids and giggle as we watched the Disney Channel and Discovery Kids, dubbed in Spanish, completely clueless.
Amazingly, as the week went on, I found myself understanding more and more of what they were saying both in TV land and in real life. As I listened to other people fluent in the language communicate with each other and with us, I started picking up on certain words and phrases. I certainly wasn’t any where near fluent by the end of the week, but I was surprised by how quickly I was catching on…
…And how quickly I lost it when we got back to the states!!! How sad! Had it not been for Dora and Diego, I would have lost everything within two months. Now, at least I can still tell my kids to vamonos, so we can get past the grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge.
The Bible is God’s language. His native tongue. In the Old Testament alone, the writers explicitly state 3,808 times that they are conveying God’s words. You will have a very difficult time hearing God’s voice if you don’t familiarize yourself with His language.
The more you read, hear, speak, write, memorize, study, seek to understand, teach and sing God’s word, the more you will discern His voice when He speaks to you.
God is always speaking to you. He is always trying to lead you, strengthen you and equip you.
But if you aren’t familiar with His language, you may never even pay attention to what He is trying to say. You may not even realize He is speaking. And if you do hear Him, you will have no basis upon which to judge the validity of what you heard.
Was that me? Was that God? Was that the devil?
Of all the truths concerning hearing God’s voice, it is most vital to understand that God will never, ever, ever (ever!) lead you in a direction that is contrary to His written word–the Bible.
I’ve heard it said that about 95 percent of what God speaks, He does so through His word. I don’t know how accurate that is for everyone, but my personal experience is consistent with that. It isn’t always when I have my Bible cracked open, literally reading it (though He speaks to me frequently that way, too), but it is also when
- He prompts a friend to share a scripture with me and it’s exactly the encouragement I need
- Or when he leads my pastor to preach on a certain passage and it confirms something I thought God said to me earlier in the week
- Or when I hear a scripture-filled song and it cuts through my heart, mending an old wound
- Or when I’m struggling with a temptation to sin and He brings up from my own memory a scripture I had read days, weeks or years prior, getting me over the hump
- Or I’m reading a book and the author shares some insight on a passage which reveals something in my character that must die in order for me to become more like Christ
- Or a friend asks me for some wisdom about a personal situation and as she speaks, God reminds me of a passage I read that directly addresses the situation
That’s how it works. If we aren’t continually exposing ourselves to God’s language, meandering in His culture, mingling with His people, asking questions, repeating and using what we are learning, it will be like me and Spanish…we’ll just lose it.
So to answer the question “What does God’s voice sound like?” I’d have to say that His voice sounds exactly like His word.