hearing the voice of love: John 10

read John 10.  Until Parkinson’s struck his vocal chords, my father had the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard.  It was deep, warm, good-natured, amusing and intelligent.  He hasn’t lived in Virginia since college, but his voice always retained his Southern charm.  He was the world’s best storyteller.  He knew instinctively how to lead you to the brink of defeat, only to have you soar, against all odds, into the heights of victory.  He could drive you crazy with his impossible demands, and then sweet talk you into believing that the impossible was possible.

A year ago, I was sitting at the trial of one of the many infringers of Dad’s leading patents in the semi-conductor field, when the attorneys began to play depositions taken fifteen years ago.  My father’s face appeared on a large screen, and a voice I didn’t recognize began to talk.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I wept, openly, in court.  I realized I was hearing my father’s voice, but it had been so long, so long, that I no longer even recognized it.

Even now, with Parkinson’s limiting his movement, nothing can stop my father from doing his best to rescue me.  When I’m in trouble, I call him, and between the nurse saying, “what was that, John?”, and my mother interpreting his every nod, Dad always manages to get out the words I need to hear.  As one of my friends says, the communication between my parents is like that in Lassie.  Dad makes a gutteral noise, and Mom says, “what was that?  They’re stuck in the well?  And they’ve been there three days?”  Usually these conversations culminate with Dad laughing and laughing, because he’s brought humor into the situation, and it takes the rest of us about ten minutes to catch on.  Dad’s attitude to his Parkinson’s is a miracle, and it’s because God has given Dad a supernatural joy that transcends his circumstances.  It’s because no matter how badly the thief destroys his voice, nothing can take away the true source of Dad’s joy.

Jesus says in John 10 that his sheep follow him because they “know his voice.”  I’ve always loved this.  It’s a calm affirmation that we belong to Jesus.  We hear the voice of Love, and we follow it anywhere because we know we can trust Love.  Love wants to give us a “rich and satisfying life.”  We know instinctively not to follow the voice of an enemy, who comes only to “steal and kill and destroy.”  John 10:10.

We know this, and yet sometimes we listen to the voice of our enemy, anyway.  Sometimes, we know what God’s voice calls us to do – forgive, love, be kind, bless our enemies, help the poor, treat others the way we want to be treated, never lie, never covet, never gossip – and yet we do the opposite.  We listen to the voice of the thief, and sure enough, our joy diminishes, our peace dissipates, and our lives feel small.  We suffer the consequences of our poor choices, and then the enemy piles on – no wonder you’re miserable, the enemy’s voice screeches.  You brought this on yourself by listening to me.  Ironically, when we listen to the voice of defeat and despair, we are doing the worst possible thing – adding insult to injury.

The good news is that our stories don’t end there.  No matter how far we’ve run away, we can cry out to our shepherd – and He will always come to save us.  He will tramp through the mud, ravines and tangled vines of our lives, pick us up, and carry us home on his shoulders.  He’ll whisper to us in a voice that never dims that He loves us.  Love will always come to rescue us, always, because that’s what Love does.  Love will give us the most beautiful story of all in the most beautiful voice of all.  It’s the story of the cross, of how God paid the price for the way we don’t listen to Him, so that He can carry us home.

When we hear that voice we weep, just as I did when I heard my father’s voice, because we’re sad about how long it’s been since we listened.  But we also weep because how else can we respond to a Voice that tells us we are loved, completely loved, just as we are, no matter what, no matter how, no matter.

posted by Caroline Coleman on May 3, 2012

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