Your Inner Voice

It will feel so otherworldly when you hear a voice within you that is peaceful and kind. A voice that’s unburdened by the sense that everything you do is wrong and that your life is on the verge of collapsing at any minute. You’ll just be in the shower or lying in bed at night or reading a novel, and this voice will confidentially break through all the noise. From time to time, the voice will offer you a clear insight, and just like that you’ll know what to do in the kind of situation that might have terrified you in the past. Maybe, just maybe, this voice is what Christians call “the Holy Spirit.”

But here’s the key that you’ll learn about this new voice: it will usually only tell you you’re next move. The old – so sure that you were constantly on the verge of failure, financial ruin, abandonment, and oblivion – was always telling you what to do six steps ahead or even what you “should have done” five years ago. Sometimes this new voice will speak up while you are at a social outing; it will tell you it’s time to go home, and you’ll dismiss yourself. Once in a while, the voice will even tell you to skip a church service, or to say no to a family outing, and you’ll trust the instinct as a good reminder that you have a choice, that no one gets to coerce you into anything. You’ll begin to doubt that God is upstairs keeping attendance records anyway.

The voice will tell you it’s time to go on dates again, and even if things don’t “work out,” you’ll know it’s safe to keep trying. One of those women will tell you something about how life can work out in surprising ways when you are in an intimate place with God, and you’ll keep hearing her point even after you mutually agree not to continue together. You’ll feel like you’re hearing this voice for the first time, but maybe you’ve just been shutting it down for years.

You’ll start to believe that maybe life isn’t as much about external outcomes as you used to think, that maybe the story is bigger than that. Maybe the real story is what’s happening inside of you, about who you’re becoming. And you’ll begin to trust that you are exactly where you need to be, and that a woman will come along when it’s time. Or she won’t. And that if she doesn’t, then maybe singleness isn’t all that bad.

It will not feel like a coincidence when, around the same time as you start hearing this healthy voice compete with your destructive voice, parts of your body will start functioning better than they have years. You’ll give up beating the hell out of yourself on the basketball court, and some of your lower back pain will dissipate. You’ll let yourself be touched, even if it’s by a masseuse. You’ll be surprised to learn how freeing bowel movements can be, and every once in a while you’ll sleep through a night. When the insomnia does set in, you’ll stop fighting it. Instead, you’ll get out of bed and open a book or your laptop. You’ll spend the next few hours punching keys and creating sentences. You’ll learn that you can be a very productive writer between the time of one and six a.m.

And by that time, if you still can’t fall back asleep, you’ll change clothes and head for the gym. With the sun coming up, you’ll break into a jog, and you’re iPod shuffle will pump The Fray into your ears:

There’s the door
You can quit right now, up and leave
You don’t need this anymore
Yea tonight, lights out, shut it down
Or you can
Open up your broken heart
And keep on wanting…
Everybody feels locked out of a house they can’t get in
So open up your broken heart
And keep on wanting

And it’ll be in moments like these that you experience joy or hope or anticipation or excitement, feelings you’d all but decided didn’t exist. You’re sheer existence will feel lighter.

There are many different ways one can describe a growth process. The cultural “growing up” is a decent option. From the medical field, we might use a word like “healing.” It could probably just as easily be said that what is happening is no less than a retraining of the pathways and patterns of your brain, and I guess we can thank neuroscience for that understanding. The language of psychology might suggest that you’re losing your “false self” and replacing it with your “authentic self.” Or that you’re self-actualizing. You won’t mind those options, but you’ll be just as at home with the spiritual and religious language of repentance, of dying to find life. Of being renewed, of being born again. What you’ll like about these words and phrases is that they seem to understand that transformation requires so much more from us than behavior modification. Yes, lasting change happens within us, at the core of our beings.

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