Growing up in a normal childhood I remember talking to God at a very young age. I also remember dreaming of hell. Talking to God was easy. The part of hell scared me beyond words. I had a wonderful loving mother and father. Years later a baby sister who I adored. Times were hard but I never knew it as my parents gave to us instead of getting themselves. They worked hard, sacrificed, had us in church and loved us more than we could imagine.
I was a people pleaser. Always seeking the approval of others. I readily got it from my parents. But as I grew older it was harder to get that approval. I would want no one mad at me or thinking I thought I was better than them. In High School I would speak to everyone. I was consumed with the thought of people liking me. I would be voted year after year popularity honors in school. It seemed to me the way to know I was liked was to be beautiful. I would enter beauty contest. It would require me to have a talent. I didn’t naturally have one. So I would work hard at performing early in life.
Being married soon after high school was very normal for those times. At age 20 I married a football coach. We had our first child a year later. The child was stillborn. Three months later I became pregnant, because of recommendations of my doctors. They did not want fear to set in. Our first child was a beautiful, healthy baby boy. The complications were in the cord. Our second child was a beautiful baby girl. Our family and life had begun.
The desire to be approved shifted from, early on my parents, then my classmates and even public, to my husband and children. I drove myself to be the best mother and wife I possibly could be. By this time my husband became very successful. This called for me to perform certain duties I thought. Included in these duties were talking to the press, appearing on television, doing magazine interviews, entertaining recruits parents, the staff and the team if we had won. This did include attending all the college ball games away and home while providing good care for our children with people I trusted, sometimes two sitters at a time. By that time our family had grown to four children, three daughters and another son. At one time they were in three different schools. My days were caught up with carpooling, school activities, home work, church, friends and on and on. It soon was becoming just too much for me. I came to terms with my discontentment. I would go to bed tired and wake up exhausted. My husband was very consumed with his work and me with my children. I was not getting that approval I so desired.
Over the length of my husbands career, we had gone from the University of Alabama, Virginia Tech, Clemson University and then to the University of Arkansas. My Spiritual knowledge had grown into understanding the importance of repentance and the results of faith in my every day life. It began to reveal things in me I had lied to myself about. My life was not perfect, neither was I a perfect wife and mother. That was when I broke. Everything I had relied on had failed me. At that time I began to turn inward. I isolated myself. There were voices in my head so real I could not distinguish the difference in reality and lies. I would get into my car and drive to unknown places. My husband had to take over my responsibilities of our children. I remained in a world all of my own. Things got so bad he said we were going to the doctor. I did not object. It was recommended, with the diagnoses of schizophrenia, that I be admitted to the mental hospital. Soon I found myself behind locked doors, with people like me or worse.
After my release we returned to our home farm in Clemson. Things did not get any better. I was in and out of the hospital several times over the next ten years. Spending more and more time alone, the voices came in and out of my mind. I would have periods of feeling healthy and would even teach a bible study from time to time. God was teaching me many things and I had a deep desire to pass this on to others. But there were times I could not get out of bed. I could not shower or even decide what to wear that day. I would cry out to God. Show me what to do today Lord. I cannot even decide the next thing to do, and He would. I withdrew even more talking to God. It seemed a safe place, removed from reality. Was the voice I heard really from God? I had to learn to distinguish the difference between the voices in my head, the voice of Satan, and the voice of God. It was not an easy task. I needed help.
There was a time I thought the voices were telling me to get into my car and kill myself if I wanted to save my family. I had not slept for three days. It was dark. I walked pass my husband, asleep on the sofa. Got in my car, fastened my seat belt and began to drive. As I passed the curve, just below my house, it was as if someone put their foot on my foot and floor boarded the car. Swerving to the right, I drove straight into the woods. Only a short distance from the house in front of me. The car was so crushed, I rolled down the window and crawled out. Why had I fastened that seat belt? I thought oh no. It didn’t kill me. What am I going to do now. So I walked into the street and walked right out in front of an on coming car. The driver cursed and swerved to keep from hitting me. There was another car and another. I felt someone behind me touching my shoulder. As I turned to see, it was a man. He said come with me. It is going to be ok. He guided me over to the side of the street. The ambulance arrived. I looked around and he was gone. This was one of many times God saved my life. To me, this man was an angel.
After two weeks I was released from the hospital. My mind was beginning to heal. It came to me I had to learn to just be quiet and still to hear the voice of God, what I was so longing for. I was not hearing the psychotic voices, but the voices of my heart. Voices of guilt and shame and fear. I would reject these thoughts and tell myself the truth of scripture. That I was forgiven. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. That perfect love cast out all fear. Over time the voices disappeared. Oh they would try to come back now and then, but I could recognize if they were not encouraging and loving they were not from God. The Spirit convicts us of sin but does not make us feel shame and guilt.
With my children now gone and my husband and I retired on our farm the desire of my heart was to spend time with God. I read many books on solitude and meditation. I had done years and years of bible study and of theology. What I desired most was to hear the voice of God. God says that His sheep will know His voice. I knew it was a promise. Now that my mind could be quiet and still I began to drink in the love of God. I would spend time in His presence recounting the verses of His love for me and His character. But I wanted to have my mind still and receive what He had for me. My greatest challenge was to listen to the Spirit. I began to think of God telling me of His endless love for me. How it was not because of what I did but because He loved me. I had value, worth and a purpose. I had an inheritance.
I thought of spending time with Him. Through my imagination I would picture walking on the beach, swinging in a swing in a meadow, running through a field. Anything that I enjoyed I would picture it being with Jesus and the Father. I knew God could speak to me anyway He would choose. He would guide me, teach me, heal me, just simply enjoy being with me. I began to enjoy nature. I felt Gods love there, in sunrises and sunsets. I would hear Him speaking to me through other Christians and non Christians alike. I began to see His faithfulness, all through my life, the things I though of as good and the things that were very hard. He revealed Himself even through my suffering and sin.
Scripture would come to mind that I had learned years ago. I would see comparisons of this life and the lessons He was teaching me. He would counsel my heart. He would give me words for prayer and to encourage others. My intimacy was no where it could be but I was beginning to see the great lengths God would go to be with me. That my communion and fellowship was to be continual. That my prayer was never ceasing. That Jesus actually lived inside me and through me. I would find myself just leaning on Him and trusting Him throughout my day. I knew He knew my thoughts before they happened, my words before they were spoken. He would never leave me. Nothing could separate me from His great love.
There was a peace and joy that I was experiencing. My circumstances had not changed but I felt I was seated in the heavenly rheims with Jesus beside the Father. The hard things of life were not affecting my inner peace even when things would not be going as I had hoped. Sometimes I would have to struggle to find this rest and trust. I would imagine the worst thing that might happen and I would say but you still love me Father, even if you will this to happen. You are in control of my ever happenings. Your love is like a bottomless ocean for me. If you would send your only Son to come and rescue me would you not always be faithful. I had assurance of who I was and who He was and He was never changing. That He loved me as much as He loved Jesus. To not be faithful to me would be to not be faithful to Himself because His Spirit lived in me.
The Spirit was showing me a new way of life, not one of denial, fear, guilt and depression, but one of trust. He also showed me that when I was in these things, I was still pure and holy, because of what Christ had done not because of what I do. I stopped running, running from God. My life was in Christ and Him in me, living and being through me. It was what Paul called the mystery in Eph. It was a life of love, joy, peace, one of laughter and dancing and dependence on Him. It was, as the scriptures say, the abundant life, one of rest and abiding. I was like a little child learning to walk, trusting her Abba Father. As she would fall time time after time, into His arms, assured He would catch her. Once again God had been faithful even though I hadn’t. I could hear the true voice. The voice of God. I hadn’t found it, it had found me by His grace.
In these writings of these devotionals I record my journey, www.whispersofgod.org. God began to reveal His love and acceptance for me, I had longed for. I am no photographer but I love taking pictures. I have a beautiful artist who paints me beautiful pictures. I am no writer, God has used my prayer letters for 17 years to teach me to be as honest about me and His faithfulness as I can. I live with mental illness and its limitations, but I have never had a fuller life. I wouldn’t exchange my life for anything. I have a confidence I have never had before. I do things I have never done. It is my hope that you will find the great mystery of Christ living in us and the glory revealed through us, the Spirit. A life of love. That no matter where you are in your journey, you will be able to discern the voices you hear. That you will hear the “Whispers of God”.