Hearing God’s Voice in the Rubber Room

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Love my journals.  Should they perish, Canadians would hear the  weeping and join the chorus, sorrow unmatched in this, or any other continent. Perish the thought–

My backups have backups. I fret each time the computer freezes which is silly as I have plenty of backups. Still, in the interest of International Peace and Good Will, I check my collection from time to time and make sure they’re all healthy and happy.

Nobody wants a chorus of weeping Canadians on their conscience.

Journals are kept in digital format, password protected. Without that luxury, I couldn’t journal as  the anti-husband could not see anything  negative or critical or his delicate feelings might be hurt. No, I’m not joking. Never mind that my thoughts and feelings were never safe with him. Not that I would know but I heard a rumor once that’s how its suppose to be with husbands and wives.

My journals begin November of 2005 and continue through last evening. In general, I sit down to chronicle every day or so unless something out of the ordinary happens in which case, I may write three or four times in twenty-four hours.

Over the years I started and stopped plenty of journals. This time around, something changed. This time, I was desperate.

Always before, I wrote only safe things in case I got busted. I colored in events with pretty colors when the facts were less than lovely. I left out hurtful events unless I intended to take the blame. I also developed a talent for punishing myself on paper,  a reminder to  do better in the future. This verbal playacting got old pretty fast and another half-empty journal joined the pile,  collecting dust on a closet shelf.

The password changed everything. Even so, I wasn’t so good at telling the truth. My reality was harsh, ugly. I refused to say what I really thought.  I didn’t know my feelings were valid, and  it was plenty okay because God knew what I was thinking anyway so who was I kidding? With time, I’ve gotten pretty dadgum good at laying out the trash and sorting through later.

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

My reasons for writing were twofold—I was confused and needed to hear from God. At first, I had no idea why I was so confused.  Maybe writing stuff out  would bring clarity. Took time but that is indeed what happened.

As a Christian, I believe God is plenty alive  and He wants fellowship with His children. I believe in prayer. I believe in answers to prayer. I felt certain He wanted to speak but in the state I was in, I couldn’t hear a thing. I thought maybe by consistently recording experiences, thoughts and prayers, I could learn discernment.

There’s a Party Going On

Ultimately, there were too many voices.

I heard things alright. Lots and lots of things. Sometimes I heard my mother’s voice, telling me I was nothing without a man and if I couldn’t please my God-ordained husband, my life was a failure. I should lose weight, fix myself up, stop letting myself go. Since mom was still alive and talking plenty, it got pretty easy to tell when she was carrying on inside my head without permission.

Another voice sounded like mine. I transcribed its rantings on a regular basis. It told me I was a failure, I deserved to be punished for my faults, I couldn’t get anything right, there wasn’t any use trying anymore.

Give up, give in and die already.

Sometimes this one spoke in the background, more an undercurrent of hopeless, helpless frustration. Other times, it got really, really loud. The more I wrote these words down, the more I began to see their point of origin.

These lovelies belonged to the voice of my husband—not  his actual words, but the message received after so many years of trying and failing to gain his love and approval.

This voice needed a good crucifixion, sometimes on a daily basis. I’m still working on that.

God Said What?

I can’t tell anyone how to hear from God and that certainly is not my intention. After all those years of continuous verbal and emotional barrage, I wouldn’t have known the Voice of God if it bit me on the posterior. Which it didn’t, in case you’re wondering.

But over time, I learned a few things.

  • God doesn’t speak inside my head. All that chatter going on right and left came from someplace for sure, but it wasn’t Him.
  • Those compulsions that cropped up occasionally weren’t God either. 

Go back and check the mailbox right now! Write out a check to such and such ministry for one hundred dollars before you go to bed!!

These turned out to be just another version of the same mess the anti-husband pulled, ordering me around, insisting I do it right-now-or-else with either option sure to cause trouble.

Write that check? Get in trouble with the anti-husband. Don’t write the check? Big trouble with the heavenlies. Over time, I learned these directives were not from my loving heavenly Father but another manifestation of that state of the double-bind the husband kept me in, on purpose, at all times.

(I have got to write that blog post on bounded choices. . .)

Another type of compulsion came with a whole bucket load of fear.  I have to get out of here. Danger-danger-danger-something’s wrong, something’s wrong, something’s wrong.

Once upon a time, I thought these feelings-out-of-nowhere were a form of discernment. Not so much. These anxious thoughts turned out to be triggered by some current situation recalling a past trauma which fanned those fight or flight reactions into a white-hot pitch.  By writing them down afterward, I learned to see where the little devils originated.

Writing about the evil force attacking me in the hardware section of the dollar store brought to mind the time the anti-husband went on a tirade over the drill bit I bought—

  • that he sent me into town to buy—
  • that I called him about from the store to double check the specifics—
  • that he swore later he never told me to get and besides that, I never called—
  • that cost way too much and—
  • how could I be so stupid?—
  • Women don’t know anything about tools—
  • you can’t send a women to do a man’s job—
  • why would I ever ask for a titanium bit when all I’m doing is hanging a picture?
  • which he would now bring up in front of company forever-and-ever amen.

Totally off-topic side note: These morphed into full-scale panic attacks once I left. They didn’t last as long as I  knew where they came from (thank you sweet journal). Then I could transfer all that emotion from the evil tools to the evil man who caused the problem in the first place. I still don’t like drill bits much but at least these days I can walk by without hyperventilating.

Elijah in the Cave

So how do you hear God’s voice? If I knew how to answer that question, I’d skip right over and tell you how many angels dance on the head of a pin. I’d glow with radioactive holiness. Everyone would stand amazed, basking in the reflection of all things pious and sanctified. I’d send out a few prayer cloths, dripping in overflowing saintly stuff and pass the collection plate.

Since this is not likely to happen anytime soon, I’ll start by confessing I use the shorthand version in general conversation that makes some folks cringe—God spoke to me and said this or that. Well no, not exactly. In our church from my younger days, we use to say, The Holy Spirit impressed upon me and I believe He’s saying—which  is probably more accurate as it implies the Lord may be talking but you might be interpreting His intentions all backwards.

Around here, it’s like this—

Sometimes a still small voice comes along, welling up from a place deep inside that isn’t so much a voice as a knowing. A bit of truth. It doesn’t sound like any other voice in my life. I try to pay attention to these whispers of substance and write them down, then put them on the shelf. I decided long ago that Mary had the right idea when she pondered things in her heart.

Nothing the Father says or does requires immediate action or else. If He leads, if He speaks, He will confirm and carry out His word. He’s got plenty of angels for all that right-this-minute stuff. We are His children. His delight. He loves us so dearly.

God’s word is truth. Learning to hear His voice leads deeper into prayer and study not away. It lines up with the proper study of scripture and it sets captives free. It’s consistent with His loving character but also with other aspects of His nature we might not be so familiar with like justice and vengeance so it’s important to remain open to the idea that we may have picked up wrong ideas and teaching along the way.

I’ve learned that my view of biblical marriage wasn’t His. He brought peace, joy and freedom. The religious teaching I learned as a young adult brought bondage, fear and a deathly fear of drill bits.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch. . .

Journaling pulled away the confusion of the moment and helped me see the truth.  I got things wrong. I made plenty of  mistakes. But I learned to hear with my broken spirit instead of these ears.

A quick point that may not apply to anyone but stubborn me–along the path to getting free, I realized my head was chattering way too much. In response, I shut down the whole she-bang. I figured if I couldn’t tell God’s voice from others, I’d just quit listening. This was so not helpful.

There’s a risk in seeking the Face of God. There’s a possibility of making mistakes. For those of us who’ve internalized the voice of our enemy, it’s a painful process to learn discernment. From personal experience, I’m saying—keep an humble heart, keep a deep love for the truth and the understanding of the Cross—humility, sacrifice, laying down our lives for others—and press in to Jesus.

In Him is truth and light and freedom.

The destination is worth the sacrifice.

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5 responses »

  1. Ok, Ida Mae, time to start writing your book. This stuff is gold and will be so helpful to lots of folks. Check out some old Erma Bombeck titles and and biblicize them. Or, let’s see there’s that other guy, a guy – not a gal – Patrick McManus. Your both of them wrapped up on one, only you do more than empty humor.

    I REALLY like this post. Huge help. Thank you.

  2. I’ve just read about 10 of your posts and find that I want to comment after each one, so you must be saying something honest here.

    An abusive anti-husband (a lover, literally and poetically) only of his own self (in every way) stole 10 years of my life. He did damage to me and to my children. He is still inflicting damage on my children (2 grown, 2 still school age); although his ability to continue to do so has been severely curtailed thanks to the fact that I spent my entire 2011 salary (more than 30 grand) on the last round of court process which has now officially determined that he abused the older children and drove our youngest to the point of suicide in 2010.

    Thank God for the courts, because the church didn’t want anything to do with me when I would not agree to remain in the abusive marriage for the rest of my life.

    God still loves justice and truth, and He absolutely gets off, I believe, on exposing those who mock Him through ungodliness done in His name.

    I feel like I know you for more than one reason; as I too have a keen appreciation for sarcasm and irony. I used to think that being called a smart mouth was an insult; now it’s a label I wear with pride, along with the scarlet letter of my divorce.

    Hi-ya! Take that! I say, because my God says to be strong and of good courage. My God says He will never leave me or forsake me. And that same God reveals Himself to us through His character.

    As I read what you wrote above, about wishing you knew how to tell people where they’ll hear God speaking, I was reminded of this.

    If it quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

    When someone or something is aligned with God’s character — holiness, love (and it’s 13 characteristics), mercy, grace, beauty and etc., I listen.

    When it’s not, I don’t.

    God bless you, sister, and thank you for saying it out loud.

    Elizabeth Kraus
    elizabeth at beinpulse.com

    • “I feel like I know you for more than one reason; as I too have a keen appreciation for sarcasm and irony. I used to think that being called a smart mouth was an insult; now it’s a label I wear with pride, along with the scarlet letter of my divorce.”

      Someone told me once that sarcasm means ‘tear the flesh’ and how it’s a sinful form of humor. I felt guilty about my smart-mouth ways for a long time but the counselor helped me see this was a way of holding my own in the middle of horrible confusion. As long as I could see how absurd the situation was and verbalize it to the one creating the drama. . . well, it wouldn’t have been funny if there wasn’t truth behind what I said.

      Humor is a weapon for certain 🙂

      BTW, I’m starting to think of that scarlet letter as a badge of honor.

      Thanks Elizabeth!

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