“This is God. I’ll be with you for the next few days.”
In the 1950 movie “The Next Voice You Hear”, this is what people hear through the radio waves, at the same moment, in every country in the world. This voice continues each night for six days, giving brief instructions and predictions to all who are listening.
This one voice, heard by many hundreds of millions of citizens, changed the way families, neighbors, co-workers, citizens, interacted with each other. By so doing the implication is this voice also changed the world.
This is the fantastical premise of this little seen but highly regarded movie. The miracle was not the result of the voice alone, but it was also the responses to this voice – the hundreds of millions of little decisions made to act differently towards one another. The combination of the two results in the transformation of the world, one life at a time.
The central character is Joe Smith (everyman), a cynical, closed- up middle-aged man—intolerant, impatient, and at odds with almost everyone, including his wife and son. Yet, after a week of responding to the directions of God as he hears it over the radio, he begins to change his attitude and approach to his wife, his son, his boss, and to life in general.
We are left to believe that this ‘everyman’ is representative of what the whole world is experiencing at the same time.
Though stylistically dated, the question posed by the film continues to intrigue me, especially today, where invisible lines of division, suspicion, and conflict are constantly being drawn and re-drawn between groups, between individuals, and even between family members.
What if there was a “human guidance system” working hard at getting our attention? What would it be like if we were being guided by something other than our changing opinions and the latest persuasive argument on social media.
In ancient biblical texts, the grand human fall originated with Adam and Eve accepting the seed of doubt planted by the devil when he asked them “Did God really say….?
How many times have I heard that little whisper inside, “C’mon, Bob, do you really think that is God directing you?”
The secular culture of today generally considers anyone who claims to have ‘heard God’ either a little unstable, or extremely presumptuous. The whole notion of supernatural guidance is relegated to those nutcase religious zealots and fundamentalists.
Yet, Samuel heard God when he was called into his role as prophet. Elijah as well heard the voice of God, not in a loud thunderclap, but in a very still, small voice that required he listen attentively.
And three of Jesus disciples clearly heard a voice in the sky proclaim “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
I must admit that the thought of God speaking directly to me and guiding me is mesmerizing, and one of the most hopeful ideas in all of spirituality, for I am in desperate need of guidance. My intellect and my life experience is not nearly enough to navigate the uncertainties and the potentialities of the day. I need a non-human power to come to my aid.
What if all of humanity looked for this guidance system each day? What if, before we even step out the door each morning, we sent up a little prayer for help to know what to do?
I have discovered one of the greatest spiritual practices described in an unlikely source, in the ‘Big Book’ “Alcoholics Anonymous”. Many recovering alcoholics start their day reading pages 86-88— a precise outline on how to start and move through your day, constantly looking to God for guidance in each situation.
“On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking…..In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.… What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.”
I had to shed some wrong ideas I had picked up myself about direct spiritual guidance. What if, instead of looking for the big sign in the sky, I look deeper within to an unlimited well? What if, instead of looking for the loud thunderclap, or the burning bush, I listen for that still small voice within my head and my heart.
Call it intuition, call it “cosmic consciousness”, call it the fourth dimension, or call it the Holy Spirit. What this guidance feels like is a sudden and unexpected impression, a name, a face, an idea—all of it feeling like a friend giving me a gentle nudge to my ribs.
I may get a thought of one of my children, or a friend, and pick up the phone and call, or get out a pen and paper and write them a letter (yes, people still like to get letters!)
Sometimes I seem to know exactly why I have been given this impression. Sometimes I sense some depression or loneliness, and sometimes I sense financial stress.
Sometimes I have struggled with a problem at work, and have been given the entire answer- it just comes.
And sometimes I am moved to do a generous act toward someone I have somehow grown at odds with.
All of these little minute ‘nudges’ and my responses to them begin to accumulate and change the very nature of my life.
Yes, God is saying something to me -every day, all through the day.
So,if the next voice you hear is that still small voice inside your head or your heart, that whispers a name, or an action- like a gentle nudge to the ribs, don’t hesitate—respond, take action. I know, if I quit listening each day, and if I quit responding, the day will come when I will not hear anything.
You may be saying to yourself, “How can I trust this voice, this intuition, this ‘nudge’?”
There is a story of a dangerous harbor that has a very narrow and limited safe entry. This entry is marked by a series of three spotlights mounted on poles at various distances from each other.
The sailor must navigate the boat so that all three of the lights line up, and are seen as one light. By maintaining that course, he can safely dock.
In checking my guidance, the harbor lights are represented by these three questions;
- Will this decision or action harm anyone in any way?
- Will this decision or action lead me to neglect my primary life duties?
- Will this decision or action benefit others besides myself?
If the answer to the first two is no, and the third is yes, then my harbor lights are in line, and I can safely assume this subtle guidance is coming from God.
Call me crazy, insane, unstable. But I prefer to listen and respond to those little nudges in my mind and in my heart as they come. Life is so much better for it.
Feeling a nudge yet?