john 10-27a - 2Douglas had been up all night. In the back yard. Staring at the sky. Listening to the voices. Receiving his mission. The mania was in full swing and as he informed me the next morning of the orders God had given him, the words tumbled from his mouth in a flurry of jumbled thoughts and elevated volume. He had heard a voice he believed was from God, and as soon as he received his dad’s blessing he would head out to proclaim the message.

Nelson, however, withheld his fatherly blessing, so the journey didn’t take place and the message never spread. Instead there was a short trip to the hospital that resulted in a long stay and a new mission toward mental health recovery.

The “voices” are common companions for many who suffer with mental illnesses. They become unrelenting and destructive during heightened episodes of psychosis. Typically they convey messages of self-harm, violence and just plain evil, though some take on an angelic tone tempting the listener to care for a (supposedly) stranded baby or, as in this instance for Douglas, receive a mission from God.

Medication can quiet them. Recovery can silence them. Healing can remove them.

As I later reflected on the episode Douglas experienced, I began to think about words that pop into my own head from time to time that prompt me to spiral downward: “No one cares.” “You blew that presentation and now no one will respect you.” Or others that send me soaring: “I should be first.” “My ideas are the best in the room.”

Amid the “voices” in my own mind, there is one unique in its approach, in its words, in its impact. I believe it is the voice of the Holy Spirit as He guides, reveals, convicts and comforts. Unlike other thoughts I have, His words always bring with them hope, peace and humble confidence. They are always filled with goodness for me and for others, and they always leave me in a posture of quiet worship.

Jesus told his disciples that His sheep hear His voice. Such truth assures me that He is speaking and I can recognize Him amid all the noise. May I learn more and more how to hear, enjoy and respond to the voice of my Shepherd.

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