A few times in my life, I believe I heard the voice of God speaking to me out loud.
I get it if you are skeptical. You won't hurt my feelings, I promise. I am more skeptical than most people about those kinds of stories.
I've heard more than my fair share of preachers say things like, "I had a word from the Lord," or "The Lord told me to..." Then the next thing out of their mouth is some opinion they've held to be true anyway.
So trust me when I say that I was as surprised as anyone when I heard what I heard on at least two occasions.
The first time it happened was when I was sitting by the bedside of a woman in a coma and dying.
I got up to leave, and I swear I heard a voice say, "Stay." Moments later, the woman opened her eyes for the last time, fixed them at something/one over my shoulder, and stared for several minutes before closing them.
The second time was when I was at a mass at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and I heard a voice say, "Beloved." It was like the crowd around me melted away, and I was in that room alone.
Now I've had more than my fair share of weird moments when perfect strangers said something I needed to hear or a trusted friend or loved one spoke some straight-up truth into my life.
Those moments were almost if not more miraculous than the whole voice in my ear (head) incidents.
There's one thing that each of those occasions had in common, though: I was at a point in each moment where I'd finally given up trying to figure everything out and surrendered it to God.
In those moments, I was more attuned to the voice of the Divine because I was in a space where I was ready to hear.
The 13th-century poet Rumi once wrote:
The voice of a savior
will shortly be heard
as soon as you
clear your hearing
I believe that God is always speaking in the world around us, but we are typically not in a frame of mind or a space where we are willing and able to listen.
And if we are willing to clear our hearing and open ourselves up to the possibility of God's voice being heard by us, we will hear words that are life-giving, transformative, and full of glorious purpose.
May it be so for all of us today and every day from this day. May we have "ears to hear," as Jesus put it, and be willing and able to let go of our need for control, shut out the noise around us and within us, and hear God speak.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.