My Sheep Know My Voice
Several years ago, I found myself at the crossroads of knowing the right thing to do while trying to convince myself that if I could pretend I didn’t know, I wouldn’t have to do it. God had been dialoguing with me about extricating myself from an unhealthy relationship and I had gradually begun to insinuate myself out of the conversation. I clung to this relationship, my manipulated mind and emotions all conspiring to convince me it was my duty—certainly not my joy—to remain. I went along in this manner for a few months, not really fooling myself, until arrested by these words in Hebrews 12:
Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
For me, the King James Version is the Old Faithful. I was raised on it, and its intonations still know how to disperse the fog when I wander into one. The Word Himself, “quick, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,” spoke to me through these words, and I believe they were lively enough to address my context as thoroughly as they did the Hebrews’. I knew exactly what God meant. I knew exactly what weight he was referring to, and I knew exactly the means of laying aside this weight. Yet, I balked.
I was sitting in the basement of my church at the time, waiting for the evening service to begin. There was still nearly half an hour until it started, so my Bible provided an interesting enough diversion since there hadn’t been enough time to go home in between services. I had just started in on this chapter of Hebrews, when a friend offered me a cup of tea and some company. The words on the page beckoned, meekly, but tea won out. I would read this chapter some other time, and then I would be in a better state to truly hear these words.
We trudged up the stairs to the balcony when the time came, and for some indiscernible reason, “let us lay aside every weight” pressed in on my mind. I shouldered it aside in preference to the hymn we sang before the sermon. The scripture reading for this service was Mark 4:11-12, read from the King James to the congregation by a stately, mustachioed British gentleman:
And He said unto them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but to them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing, they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
Hard verses to hear! Harder still to attend much to the sermon, when all the time I suddenly became conscious of the gift of God given to me: to hear, and understand, while I wished to reject this understanding. Conviction’s fiery tongue had finally lapped up my icy heart. Had I not been sitting, I believe I would have collapsed to my knees. To me, it is given to hear and understand; to me it is given to see and perceive, yet I would excuse myself from this gift of life to be dull of hearing, swaddled in self-imposed ignorance!
Something, or Someone, drew my attention to the altar, where above are affixed those familiar words from Isaiah:
Look unto Me and be ye saved
all the ends of the Earth.
Christ would find me in any corner of the Earth. He would find me in the depths of my own heart, too. While this was not a straightforward case of disobedience, manipulated and emotionally battered as I was, God knew what I needed to draw my attention to Himself: transcendent of my problems, my context, and my abuser. The fever of conviction ebbed; the moment of decision passed. I walked home, lightened of what I now knew to be an unendurable burden, and in obedience, did as I was bid. God spoke, and when like a stubborn child I pretended not to hear, He pursued in grace and love to teach me how blessed we are, we who may hear and understand.
Tessa Powell is a graduate student, Sunday school teacher, database drudge, and amateur scholar. In her free time, you can find her with family, friends, or practicing Hobbit-ish habits with a comfortable cup of tea and a book.