Initially, when people stated how they heard God, and how often they heard Him, I felt not only spiritually inept, but socially as well. In every single church I went to, I heard that same proclamation. Some were more bombastic than others. Some, I assumed, were faking it. It sounded so awkward, they had to be! Nevertheless, there were constant themes that stuck to the neurons of my brain: only a “true, devout” Christian can hear God, and when you hear a distinctly powerful voice telling you the good way to do things, it’s God speaking.
When I was younger, I believed I heard a specific voice from Him, and I cried to my mom about it. She told me that it was okay and there was nothing to be embarrassed about. Eventually, insight from God did not come from “hearing.” It was more of a feeling, for me. An instinct beyond my control. To some, that may sound silly, but everyone’s spirituality and religion is different. That is the world we live in. I don’t feel childish or cheesy when I say how I can feel God’s presence or feel what He wants me to do to become better, even when His direction appears troubling and stupid firsthand. “Realistic” is the category I put my feeling of Him under, rather than my hearing of Him. Again, every individual is different, which makes every relationship with Him different.
The instinct was a lot stronger when there aren’t many distractions around me, or random thoughts clouding my focus. Christian retreats with no technology and interacting with only the people around you would give enough discipline to let the instinct come at its strongest. But, the problem with that, is that I would have my “Jesus High” and leave for my usual routine of social media, school, etc.
Ralph Ellison, the author of Invisible Man (it’s a fantastic novel by an African American transcendentalist, you should read it!), said that the beauty of discipline is when it works. Therefore, in order to listen, feel, or receive anything from God, discipline has to be enforced. That is the meaning of being “devout.” One does not have to flaunt their faith pretentiously. Insincere claims of “I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior” is not an example of being devout. Neither is the lie of being a “true” Christian. Who ever said there was a “true” anything? There are those who use it as a mask for conspicuous perfection, but, truthfully, as long as one fully understands the purpose of their faith, and finds the form of practice that helps best, that is what matters. Discipline isn’t always a bad thing when placed in the correct connotation.
Ultimately, there is grace in the Holy Spirit, which allows us to choose how to receive His being. Therefore, pressure we place on ourselves for not naturally “hearing” Him is unnecessary. He comes to us when He wants us to hear him, feel him, or use other senses in our relationships with Him. Lastly, the more we seek Him, the more beautiful the revelation is from Him.