If we have different love languages, and if there are different types of learning styles, then it makes sense that we hear and experience God in different ways too. I have been trying for several months to get through Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development, by Benedict J. Groeschel. So far it has been helpful in understanding how one develops spiritually, especially from childhood to adulthood. What I find most beneficial, however, is his discussion on how people hear God’s call in different ways, or what he calls the “Four Voices of God”.
According to Groeschel, who weighs heavily on Western Philosophy, he argues that people will hear God in four different ways and most people will fit into one or two of the categories quite easily. The categories are seeking God as the One, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.
God as One: This category is about God known as the One, Supreme and Living Unity. Usually this person will have contradicting forces internally or opposing forces that threaten to tear the self apart. Only by submitting to the complete will of God will this person find unity and peace of mind. It can be difficult for this group to completely surrender to God’s call, and some in this group will live their entire lives in a state of confusion, but others like St Catherine of Genoa, who suffered from powerful and contradictory inclinations, chose to do the will of God and did tremendous good. This is the one category, that I think, would be the most difficult to reach, because everything is so internalized. When you think about teens, who fall in this category, strong relationships with parents and other trusted people, would be most beneficial for these people trying to navigate through the difficult times.
God as True: People who hear God in this way are ones who love to seek, to ask questions and are naturally more curious. These same people like to discuss their thoughts with others. They are also similar to people in the One category, however, they are less likely to be in turmoil. This category includes individuals like St. Thomas Aquinas and perhaps everyone will find themselves in this category at one point in their lives. Teenagers especially want to hear the truth and the childlike explanations they were fed, when they were young, no longer work. Some people don’t think we should doubt God at all, but if we are right, about what we believe, than we have nothing to fear. The questioning teenager may doubt and question, but if done properly will grow into an adult who has a reverent love for philosophy and theology. However, the flip side is that in our often complicated world, where Truth is hidden amongst a muddle of half truths and falsehoods, that in their quest to find the Truth, they may become cynical, skeptical or disheartened, if it alludes them.
God as Good: This category is very different from the above two, but is similar to God as Beautiful, which will be discussed next. They are the most caring, gentle, and affectionate of human beings and they are often not troubled by any inner conflicts, like we saw in the previous two categories. Unfortunately, people in this category are most likely to be taken advantage of. They can be easily manipulated, deceived and betrayed. Finally, their goodness needs to be truly rooted in God if they are to lead a life of generous service. If they veer too much, to the pursuit of good in the material world, it will only lead to disaster. Often people in this category are our favourite saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi or Blessed Mother Theresa.
God as Beautiful: Lastly, there are those who find God in beauty and there is no shortage of beauty in this world. This group, however, can easily be deceived by beauty and Plato taught that “we find unfailing and infinite beauty only if we pass from transitory beauties to essential beauty”. These people need to be wary of the temptations that accompany beauty, less they settle for something less. It is not uncommon for them to rise and fall, throughout their spiritual journey.
Groeschel closes with a section on “Understanding Your Call” that sums up everything and how we can use what we just learned. “The first step towards understanding one’s spiritual life is to recognize what beckons us: the One, the True, the Good, or the Beautiful. Our Saviour assures us that “He who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it shall be opened” (Mt. 7:7). The Hindus wisely say, “What you desire, that you become.” We are all led by the divine and by one, or perhaps two, of the four voices of God, although the others are never entirely absent. The danger is always settling for less. We seek Heaven, but we play with things that will ultimately lead us either downward and away from our eternal destiny, or at best leave us suspended between Heaven and Hell. This is, after all, the description of Purgatory. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt.6:21). When the heart is divided, progress is slow and painful; life is purgatorial. It should be clear that psychologically divided loyalties, such as serving of two masters, are a kind of neurosis. The goal of the study of spiritual development is to identify, understand, and overcome by grace the neurotic tendency to settle for what is less than God when He has called us.”