Does God speak to you? Do you hear him? Better yet, do you listen to him?

Sometimes I don’t want to hear what someone has to say so I have sophisticated ways of tuning out the voice. I learn it from my grandchildren.

First strategy: keep moving and making noise. Twirling, singing, talking, dancing, running — all work, especially when done simultaneously.

Second strategy: walk to another room forcefully, preferably with arms crossed across the body, saying something like, “I am not going to listen to you!” to drown out the other person’s voice.

Third strategy: immerse oneself in some type of media – movie, music, TikTok, Instagram, FaceBook – anything with noise and movement.

Fourth strategy: plug the ears with the fingers.

Fifth and final strategy: avoid the person whom you fear will disagree with you or correct you. This can be done by going into another room to play, staying outside, immersing onself in a game or other activity.

When my grandchildren avoid me, it’s because they don’t think I understand. They see me as the voice of judgment and correction. Yes, they know I love them; but in the moment when they need redirection, they don’t believe I get it.

Most of the time when I don’t hear God it’s because I am not listening. I am not listening because I am afraid of what he will say. I am convinced that he disapproves of me and is going to correct me. I either a) don’t want correction because I’m not ready to change or b) I know I need to change and am weighed down by shame.

Jesus’ words come to mind right now. He said this to Nicodemus, his nighttime visitor:

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.

John 3:16-18

These are words of life and hope. When I comprehend how deeply God loves me and that Jesus didn’t come to judge me, but to save me — I open my heart to his loving gaze. I can sit with him in all my weirdness and failures and know that I am completely accepted all the time. He knows what it’s like; he gets it.

I have been told that sympathy is feeling sorry for a person’s condition, the experiences he has, her lot in life. It is feeling bad that the choices another made brings her to a certain place. It is the feeling that if I were in your shoes, I would make different choices, but I feel bad for the choices you made and how it impacts you.

Empathy on the other hand feels what the other person is feeling. It knows that if I were you, I would do exactly the same thing. It is feeling the desperation of the moment, the difficulty of making a different choice. It feels the pain and struggle of the decision.

According to Hebrews, Jesus empathizes with me.

14So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Hebrews 4:14-16

There is the solution. Since Jesus understands, empathizes with our weaknesses, we can come boldly to him, right into the place he abides, right before the throne with no fear or uneasiness. It is what we know of humans that makes us hesitant, not what we know of God.

Take my word for it and then give it a try…come before him boldly with all your scars and messiness and see if he doesn’t greet you with a smile and a warm embrace!

He gets it!

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