The Voices Behind Us

“If that’s what Christianity is, I want no part of it” she said after news of yet another prominent preacher caught in sin. The reporters had gleefully announced the salacious details in the day’s news to my mother’s eager ears. I stood there, heart pounding, in the kitchen with her, and yet so very alone.

This is one voice behind me. It haunts, even decades later. Taunts. Did my life not tip the scales, even a little?

We all have voices behind us – their hot breath of condemnation against our necks. Many times we hear our own words joining theirs, bearing down on us in the night.

We mask those voices with distraction and noise, drowning out their insistent pursuit, afraid to turn around and look them full in the face. Or we shut them down with the sharp tools of anger or perfectionism.

But there are other voices, too. Voices that nourish and bolster, like a warm shaft of sunlight breaking through the winter woods. Voices of those whose words removed the “kick me” notes pinned to our backs and urged us on towards hope.

“You’re going to do great things for God someday,” she told me, sixteen and questioning my place in the world. Her words lingered, a blessing as I left home for adulthood’s challenges. Giving me hope that somehow I might make a difference in the wild unknown before me.

“Those words you spoke…” his gaze arrested me across the cafeteria table at our school reunion. I fiddled with my name tag, wondering. “You were the one who made me really think about God for the first time.” He smiled and my heart flooded with a holy heat. His is a voice that follows me as well. Encourages me still.

We also remember those words we wish we could take back – words that not only trail behind us in our regrets, but that may still echo in the hearts of the ones we hurt. And there are times ours was the voice of hope, of love and encouragement, but our words seemingly drift away, forgotten. Did any of them find purchase in the soul of another? Take root in the barren places longing for life?

There is One who counts our offering. A voice behind us, to guide and help us on our way. A voice of courage, not condemnation. A voice of hope, not fear. A voice that raised the dead with both a commanding shout and a gentle word, at times a lion’s roar and others a gentle whisper.

“Your ears will hear a voice behind you,” God spoke through the prophet, “saying, ‘this is the way; walk in it.’”

I open my Bible, pray like the boy Samuel, rising from his bed to ask: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” I listen for His voice in the night watches; heed His gentle correction and encouragement; sense His whispers of love seep down into the fissures of my soul, healing.

I find Him there, before and behind me. Sheltering under His gentle hand, I listen. Receive. Choose His voice over others.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27

There are voices behind us. A great cloud of witnesses before us. Hearts around us who need our voice of blessing.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” the Psalmist sang. Let the old voices of regret and condemnation be drowned out by the powerful, healing voice of grace. Let us, also, sow songs of peace into the lives of others, our voice urging them on to greater things, brighter hopes.

There are voices behind us. Which ones will we listen to today?

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Revelation 3:20

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