In the early morning light, my dad lugged two five-gallon buckets to the feeding troughs. At five years old, I tagged along behind him while he did the morning chores. The black cows grazed in the pasture or stood nursing their calves. But when he opened the gate and called, “Here, cow,” they raised their heads and lumbered toward him. Sometimes, I hung on the gate and imitated his call, but they ignored me.
This daily ritual framed my memories of farm life, but it’s significance had held little meaning until I studied John 10:1-5 as an adult. At thirty years old, I had been a Christian for thirteen years, and I had served alongside my husband in two ministries. However, when I read John 10:3-4, “. . . the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. . . and they follow him because they know his voice,” I had to admit that I couldn’t recognize Jesus’ voice. Recalling those early mornings on our family farm, I asked Jesus, “Help me learn to recognize Your voice.”
While my preschool daughters napped, I committed my afternoons to praying that simple prayer and reading the Bible. For me, staying quiet and listening was my first challenge. I would lie on my bedroom floor, trying to focus on Jesus, but seconds later, a task left undone would pop up: I need to mop the kitchen floor. Even though I had avoided mopping the floor for days, that thought burst into my quiet mind like an unexpected and unwanted intruder. From that day on, I kept a pad of paper next to me to jot down reminders.
Then, I faced another challenge to quiet listening. In the past, I hadn’t paused from talking to God long enough to listen. Usually, I came to Him with my list of prayer requests and needs, and when I finished that list, I said, “Amen,” putting my Bible and the list away until the next time.
Listening to Jesus required a different approach. First, I asked Him, “What would you like to talk about today? As I waited, a subject might come to my mind or a person who needed prayer. Not surprising, I often became aware of my sin or something that I needed to learn about God. While reading the Bible, I listened for Him and cherished the words that revealed Him.
Not long after I began asking Him to help me recognize His voice, I read, “For when I called, they did not answer. When I spoke, they did not listen” (Isaiah 66:4 NLT). The Old Testament covenant that God had made with the Israelites required them to listen to Him, but they had neglected the words of their daily Shema prayer: “Hear (listen) O Israel.” I was guilty of the same problem! In my unbelief and busyness, I had neglected to listen. Later, when Jesus came, He said, “the sheep listen to his voice.” Now, I wanted to recognize His voice and leadership as my first priority.
Since those early days of learning to recognize Jesus’ voice and follow Him, life responsibilities have sometimes crowded out His voice. While raising three children and working full-time, both as a high school teacher and as a ministry partner to my husband, I often felt exhausted and wondered, “Where can I find true rest?” “How can I draw closer to God?” Now that my children are adults and I have retired from teaching, social media and time wasters occupy me. I wonder, “Where will I finally find deep satisfaction?” “Does my life matter anymore?” Twenty years later, I’m still learning to listen to Jesus and submit to His leadership.
I wrote Led: Learning to Listen and Follow for busy women like me, women who want to grow closer to God but who need a simple plan for spiritual growth. The short, 30-day readings are paced like a devotional, but they offer Bible-study depth, with no blanks to fill in or videos to watch. The questions in the back of the book are provided for individual reflection or group discussion. We are women searching for rest and fulfillment. In the Good Shepherd, we find a leader who knows us and leads us if we learn to recognize His voice.
Start your journey here:
- Order Led: Learning to Listen and Follow at www.JayneWalters.org.
- Join the community at “The Rooted Life” on Facebook.
- Follow my blog at www.JayneWalters.org.
Jayne Walters writes and speaks from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She encourages women to live a rooted life in Jesus through her blog and her website at www.JayneWalters.org. She and her husband, Dave, have worked with parachurch organizations and churches for almost 30 years.