“With a restlessness which is pitiful to see, people are ever shifting from one thing to another, always hoping to find rest and satisfaction in some anticipated accomplishment or possession. People fancy they want houses and lands, great learning or power. They pursue these things and gain them only to find themselves still restless, still unsatisfied.” — Emilie Cady
Some years ago, I was speaking to a large group in Detroit’s, Unity Temple, where the late David Williamson was minister. I believe it was the Christmas of 1982. I was in my first church in Bay City, Michigan and David had been in Detroit for a number of years. It was an honor for me, a rookie, to be invited to speak from the pulpit of this seasoned veteran. I had been thinking about negative conditions and how many people might have discovered Unity out of adversity. I decided to ask this audience of 1,000+ people how many of them had discovered Unity as the result of some crisis. Probably 80% of the hands went up. Since then I have asked this question a number of times, and the result is usually about the same.
Many people, especially those new to Unity, find the notion of listening to the “still small voice” of intuition an abstraction. Intuition is often thought of as something that happens while you’re driving and you suddenly get an inner nudge to turn down a street you don’t normally travel. You do, and you find an elderly person who has fallen and needs help. This is certainly a useful type of intuitive prompting. A similar situation happened to me just last week when I passed a man standing next to his electric scooter, his leashed dog in tow. My first thought was that he was simply enjoying a pause in his ride to stand and take in the morning. But, something told me no. I made a u-turn and discovered the man’s scooter had run out of battery power. He was only a few blocks from home, but he could barely walk three feet. The man was in the midst of a crisis. I drove him home and went back for his scooter, which I ended up pushing to his house. I almost didn’t listen to that little voice, but I’m glad I did.
The voice I’m talking about is the one that Cady mentions above: the voice of dissatisfaction. It’s a nagging restlessness that prompts us to look “lo here, or lo there” for something that we never quite seem to find. I remember hearing Eric Butterworth say something to the effect that we desire more because we are more. Whether this thought originated with him or with someone he was quoting, I don’t remember. What I do remember is the idea resonated with me. I desire greater freedom because there is something in me that is already free.
Your average person off the street may not know what you are talking about when you suggest that they become still, turn within and listen to the voice of God. They will understand, however, when you talk about their inner longing for a freer, fuller life. This longing is universal. Whatever form captivity takes, whether it manifests as iron bars or the stifling fear of some desperate circumstance, we desire freedom because something in us knows freedom already. This longing for freedom, so universally felt by all people and by all living creatures, is the voice of God.
I will often suggest to people that they begin the practice of meditation, not by seeking some foreign, heavenly vocalization, but by paying attention to their nagging inner voice of dissatisfaction. I think we’ve all noticed that since the days of the Old Testament God has stopped parting clouds, shaking the earth, and speaking in whole sentences filled with clear instructions that even an illiterate shepherd can understand. Yet maybe God does speak in a universally understood language. Everyone knows the uneasiness of dissatisfaction. What we do not understand is how to deal with this uneasiness. This is why we constantly shift from one thing to another. We’re trying to quell our dissatisfaction.
If I think of the voice of dissatisfaction as a greater aspect of my deeper Self trying to come forth, I find much value in simply opening my mind to this uneasiness and asking, “Who are you? What do you want?” As I make this inquiry the focus of my quiet time, I discover this is my soul complaining that I am somehow blocking its expression.
I once found myself in a situation where my back was against a wall. I could not go forward, sideways, up or down. The Red Sea was before me and the thundering Egyptian army was closing in for the kill. By all appearances, unless something in my circumstances changed, I was, like Job, faced with the fact that all the things I had feared most were upon me. When it couldn’t get any worse, it did.
One day something in me that had been sleeping woke up. Like David, incensed by the taunting Goliath, my spirit, which was not one prone to fear, suddenly said, “Enough!” This part of me had known all along that it was greater than anything out there in that world of appearances. It was trying to remind me that I had not been given a spirit of fear. All those little fear-inspired voices that were shouting inside my head were there because I was attempting to stuff something very big into a tiny little box built of appearance-based perceptions. There was still a young David accepting the promise of the Lord to grant his nation a land that is wide, flowing with milk and honey. There was still a Moses shouting to his quaking people to “Fear not, stand firm, lift up your eyes and see the salvation that the Lord will work for you today.”
It is often out of the greatest crisis that we make our most noteworthy demonstrations. From dissatisfaction bordering despair, super-human strength is often born. Something clicks in us. A switch connected to a force that has not for an instant been absent is turned on. While the darkness before the dawn may seem eternal in the bone-chilling span of those moments, we shiver because we know warmth. The cold is not our true element. The voice of dissatisfaction is the voice of God. Heeded, it is a voice that leads to the kind of freedom we already know at the deepest level of our being.