There is a huge difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing them. I’ve heard this truth illustrated by talking about identical twins. We have two sets of twins in our parish; one set is easy to distinguish because one is a boy and the other is a girl. But the second set of twins are identical girls!
Somebody just meeting the girls would have a hard time telling them apart. But, once you get to know them, to spend time with them, to talk with them, become friends with them; you move beyond knowing about them and actually knowing them well enough to tell them apart! It takes time and attention and purposeful focus to actually know someone.
What’s true of the twins is also true about our relationship with God.
Look at our lesson today in John 10:1-9:
The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Jesus continues confronting His people with hard sayings. He insists He is the “door.” He is the “shepherd.” And all who came before Him were thieves and robbers. Wow, Jesus, don’t you know we aren’t allowed to speak so harshly anymore?
But Christ knows that it is only by this stark contrast between those who just know about God and those who actually hunger to know God in a life-giving and intimate way that will ever wake up we humans to the seriousness of our own situation. All too often we want God on our terms for our perceived benefits. We want God to conform to what we think we need. But our shallow delusion in knowing ourselves and knowing God make our judgements about what we think we need or what God is too small to actually transform us into the people that can enjoy God forever!
We have to be confronted that our own, private, spirituality isn’t comprehensive enough to really get us to know God and ourselves. We will either be too hard on ourselves or too easy on ourselves.
But, to those who deeply desire to know God, they will recognize His voice and follow Him.
So, how do you get to know God’s voice? I love what a brother priest wrote recently “Complaining about a silent God when your Bible is closed, is like complaining about not getting text messages when your phone is off!” You won’t know God’s voice if you are a stranger to prayer, liturgy, and ministry. Knowing God’s voice is no different than knowing someone you love well. You spend time with that object of your love and the sheer time in closeness to that one creates a familiarity that can lead to intimacy and an ability to know God’s voice.
Today, are you willing to put in the time and effort to know God’s voice? Or are you insisting that God conform to your timetable and availability? Do you love God enough to spend time with Him? If you do, you’ll be able to tell which voice is God’s and which is a voice that leads you away from being Orthodox on purpose!