In 1 Samuel 3, young Samuel is awakened in the middle of the night by an unfamiliar voice that keeps nudging him. Eli, the high priest who mentors Samuel, helps him understand he’s hearing God’s voice. With Eli’s wise counsel, Samuel learns to make himself available to God by sitting patiently in the quiet and responding, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”
Like Samuel, each of us has an inner voice of Wisdom—a silent whisper in our hearts that leads and guides us, and speaks to us. It’s the voice of Infinite Love. We can’t force that voice to speak, and it can be drowned out by the other noises that blare at us. We can, however, create quiet space within our hearts to listen.
St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism, offers several suggestions to help us create what he calls a “rhythm of life” that connects us with our Deeper Self and creates wholeness and balance. These simple practices lay the foundation for us to hear and be guided by the loving voice of God. Here’s what he suggests:
Meditation. Spend 15-20 minutes each day in quiet solitude with God. Be still and listen. Rest in God’s love.
Spiritual Reading. Read a few chapters of a spiritual book each day to give your mind deeper wisdom to chew on throughout the day.
Contemplative Community. Surround yourself with a handful of people who’re also on the spiritual path to encourage each other on the journey.
Loving Action. With the above three practices in place, roll up your sleeves, move into the day, and use your unique gifts to serve others to make the world a better place. Become God’s prayer.
According to St. Benedict, as we weave these practices into the fabric of our daily lives, we’re tending the holy within ourselves. We’re creating space for God to speak to us. This rhythm provides balance and leads to wholeness as we lean into the wisdom of God to guide us along life’s journey.
I recently had a chance to practice what St. Benedict preached and Samuel experienced. I received a text from a young man I’d been walking alongside as a mentor while he went through rehab for alcohol addiction. After eleven months of successful recovery, I got a text from him stating, “I’m in the crap again. I’m in a desperate spot.”
My heart instinctively knew what he meant. He’d had a slip. But little did I know how far he had fallen.
Over the next five days, he gradually revealed that he was holed up in a hotel room and drinking one to two jugs of whiskey each day.
I didn’t know what to do. I wept and lamented for my friend. Eventually, as I sat in the quiet each morning I heard God silently whisper his wisdom to me. “Just tell him you love him. He’s a good man. Help him explore his options. Encourage him to reach out. Offer to take him to detox when he’s ready.”
Finally, my friend responded to the nudges that God offered through our conversations. He’s now in a detox program and trying for the sixth time to get back on his feet and overcome the addiction that keeps knocking him down.
I don’t know where my friend’s journey will end up. But I do know and believe God that spoke to both of us as we listened as best we could in the silence of our hearts. And I’m learning, as my friend did, how to hear that voice and trust it.
God speaks to us in different ways. And just as the voice of God was available to Samuel, it’s available to all of us. Our job is to quiet ourselves, be still, and create daily space for the Creator so we can hear the voice of wisdom and respond, “Speak, Lord. I’m listening.” And when we do, our world becomes a brighter place.
—brian j plachta
Can you forgive yourself for being perfectly human?