One of my favorite authors and teachers is John Ortberg. Awhile ago he wrote a book called “The Me I Want To Be: Becoming God’s Best Version Of You.” I highly recommend this book as an introduction to spiritual formation. It’s not nearly as academic as it is devotional and immediately applicable.
One of the best concepts to come out of the book was “Try Softer.”
“Often the people in the Gospels who got into the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. That got in the way of their loving other people.” (p.71)
“If trying harder is producing growth in your spiritual life, keep it up. But if it is not, here is an alternative: Try softer. Try better. Try different. A river of living water is now available, but the river is the Spirit. It is not you.” (p.71)
As I have recognized my own penchant to try harder, I have come to a place of surrender. I completely recognize that no amount of effort on my end, apart from the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me, is sufficient and able to bring me to a place of lasting change.
My personal journey of transformation by trying softer has brought me to a strange, new place. It’s a place I can’t believe I never realized existed. It’s a place of “listening.” Sounds too simplistic, doesn’t it? Maybe for you it’s been a no-brainer, but for me it took awhile to learn how to listen better.
Here’s what I’ve come to realize: I listen better as I learn to listen softer.
I’m coming to recognize the voice of God isn’t one we need to strain harder to hear. Rather than turning up the volume, we need to turn it down as we learn to lean in and embrace stillness, silence and solitude.
Listening softer is like trying softer. It’s letting go of agendas and expectations. It’s learning how to wait on God and check in often as we go throughout the day. It’s a gentle awareness that God is speaking and moving in our present circumstances. It’s a re-focusing of our senses to listen better, not harder.
Listening softer is an invitation to hear, and to ask, better questions.
I could go on and on talking about the ways I sense God using this idea of “listening softer” to keep me right where he wants me on this present journey of formation. But then this post would get too long. Allow me to simply invite you along on this journey of being willing to listen to the still, small voice of God.
The Holy Spirit is beckoning you and me closer – back into intimacy with God and authentic community with one another. It is in these places of intimacy, community, and eventually action, that we find our stories being caught up in God’s story.
A story of redemptive love.
A story of grace.
A story of righteousness and justice.
Can you hear it? Listen…softer.