Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Listening, Dec 11
He softens our hearts as we listen (Advent week 2 day 5).
Part of learning to listen to God is learning that we often hear and then listen to our false-self. Our false sense of self speaks within our heart and says, “You need to have (certain things) to be significant” or “You need to do (certain things) to be respected” or “You need people to treat you (a certain way) in order to feel worthy.” Our false-self operates independently of God and demands that its desires be fulfilled. When they aren’t, we feel a sense of unworthiness. We might have this nagging sense that things aren’t right – that something is wrong with us. This leads to sin, a striving to make our false-self feel better without God. Then, people in our lives become either someone who affirms or denies our false-self. People are no longer recipients of our love, but objects that we desire or despise. This self-talk is frequently happening below the surface of our conscious awareness which can be a challenge.
In the Christmas songs “O Holy Night,” we find the line: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.” This lyric beautifully illustrates what happens when we live from our false-self. The “pining” describes the desires of the false-self which always leads to sin and error (i.e., living independently of God and struggling to live in relationship with others). When we live according to voice of the false-self, there is not room for God or others in our hearts. The answer to the problem of the false-self is beautifully described in the second half of this lyric. When Jesus appeared, the soul felt its worth. Rather than listening to the voice of the false-self, Jesus speaks a new truth into our souls.
How does this work? How is it that the soul feels its worth? Consider the Apostle Paul’s words:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:11-14
Notice all the richness of this passage: when His grace (Jesus) appears, we are brought into a relationship with God (“bringing salvation”) as we trust in Him. Then, we are (by His grace) taught to renounce “worldly passions” which are the voices (the demands) of the false-self. His grace is the beautiful message: we are loved without condition, we are strong when we are weak, and we are significant because we belong to Him. His grace teaches us that we don’t need anything that the false-self desires and demands. Also, notice also the word “wait” … we can know that even when we feel “less than” or unworthy because there is more of the story to be revealed. Finally, we belong to Him (“a people for his own possession”) which ensures that we are secure and strong and significant.
Are you listening to the demeaning voice of the false-self that says you are lacking and therefore need to strive to prove your worth? Or, are you listening to God who speaks grace over your life again and again which allows you to stop and rest?
Make no mistake! When you hear: “I don’t belong” or “I’m not good enough” or “There is something wrong with me” … these are not the voice of God. God speaks love and grace and acceptance because, in Christ, this is what is most true about us. When we keep listening to voice of the false-self, we will be led back into sin (living independently of God) over and over again.
It gets tricky when we consider that sin and weakness will be a part of our lives. However, we can learn to renounce or “say no” to the demands of the false self as a response to our sin and weakness when we listen to His grace. One writer illustrates how our listening can change:
“Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.” Simone Weil
Here’s the point: let your sin, your weakness be the connecting point with God rather than a dividing line. When you are feeling that sense of disconnected, unworthiness, or lack, let that be your cue to listen to God, to let Him in.
Today, practice listening to His voice as it relates to your sin and weakness. When you are confronted with the voice of the false-self, stop and ask God what He wants to say. If words other than grace arise, calmly “say no” to them. Wait and listen for the soft, gentle but strong voice of God who “will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love” (Zephaniah 3:17). As you hear His voice, don’t harden your heart but listen and therefore act out of that foundation of love rather than the false-self.
Take a few minutes and practice this now.
Begin with this prayer and then sit quietly before Him:
Father, help me to silence every creature, including myself. I want to listen to You as I hear your voice. Help me to learn stillness so that I might be attentive to Your good and gracious voice. As I hear, may I have the courage to follow Your heart from my heart. Thank you for desiring to do life with me.
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