My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27
Bummer. I knew I should have listened. I have always liked music and I have always loved to sing. From the time my mother forced my oldest sister to allow me to sing at her wedding…I’ve been hooked. Not only do I like music I generally like all kinds of music. To me music is the melody of life. It often expresses emotions and feelings that otherwise might go unexpressed. So, I sing…loud and all the time.
You know, some people say, “I saw you at the store the other day.” Not me. People will say, “I heard you at the store the other day.” Regardless of where I am there is usually a song somewhere close by. And the funny part is you never know what you will get. It might be “Amazing Grace” or Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” That’s not an issue except for the fact I work at a church. It can be kinda strange.
I also have a hard time getting the words right. I know some of the words to hundreds of songs but unfortunately know all the words to very few. People used to correct me when I would get the words wrong. Most finally gave up. Now they just smile. I should have listened a long time ago when someone would try and correct me. Especially since that time in basic training.
Basic training in the Air Force is that time when they teach you how to be an airman. That includes knowledge and action. Clearly it involves learning to follow orders. I was raised in the South so saying, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” came really easy for me. I was even a pretty compliant person. But one day, well, I just missed it.
For some reason I was in the barracks by myself, and I was letting it go. It was an old hymn, maybe “Amazing Grace.” From somewhere a voice boomed, “Shut-up.” Well, I thought it was one of the guys jerking my chain, so I kept right on singing at the top of my lungs. From somewhere the booming voice boomed again, “I said shut-up.” It was just about then that I vaguely remembered hearing that voice before. “Oh, that’s right,” I said, “that’s the voice of my drill instructor, Sergeant Catchings.” Oops. Game, set, match.
So here he comes from somewhere and he is madder than a hornet. “Taylor,” he said, “didn’t I tell you to shut up?” he boomed in his drill sergeant voice. I knew there was no use trying to explain that I didn’t know it was him, so I just muttered a weak, “Yes, sir.” Then he walks over to the mop closet, opens the door and invites me to step inside. Gulp. I step inside and as he shuts the door he said just one word, “Sing!”
So, with all its odors and in the dark, I start belting out “Amazing Grace.” After a few verses, he opens the door and says, “Do you know, “Rock of Ages?” “Yes, sir” I said. Once again came the one-word command, “Sing.” The door closes, and I sing. After a few verses, the door opens and he said, “Do you know…” and he named another hymn now long forgotten. “Yes sir” I said. You know what he said, “Sing.” Well, after a few verses the door opens and he says, “Get out.” I wasn’t sure if he meant out of the closet or out of the Air Force and I didn’t stick around to find out. I got out.
Well, I learned something that day. It is important that I learn to recognize and obey the voices around me…especially those that might be in charge. I never missed the voice of Sergeant Catchings again. When I heard that booming voice…I listened. No more mop closets for me. I learned that day to listen for my drill instructor and even more importantly, I’m learning to listen for God.
You see, one day Jesus was describing His followers to a bunch of religious bad guys. He said, “My sheep (code for followers) know My voice. I know them and they follow Me.” That verse, in English, has 12 very important words. First, He said, “My sheep know my voice.” Check. We need to recognize Jesus’ voice. Amid all the noise of the world we have got to hear Him. Second, He said, “I know them.” Wait, what? He knows us. I like that. It means that He has a relationship with me. He is looking out for me. It also means He knows my quirky habits like singing too loud in the middle of Walmart…and loves me anyway. Last, “They follow me.” What He is saying is that followers follow. Plain and simple. Follow Him and you might avoid the “mop closets” of life. Trust me…I’ve been there and done that. It’s not the kind of place you want to visit or sing in.
I’m sure Sergeant Catchings had my best interest in mind. He was there to teach me discipline and he did. Looking back, I’m sure he thought it was all pretty humorous. So do I…now. But that day, well, I just wish I had listened a little closer. These days, I’m learning to listen for the whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this.” And I believe He does. Bro. Dewayne