Updated: May 24, 2020
Her name was Shannon. She was a junior when I was a sophomore in high school. She was good-looking and popular – two things I was not – but I had it in my brain-stem that we were destined to be very happy together for the rest of our lives. Somehow I had managed to get her phone number. (There was probably lunch-money involved, though the details are fuzzy.) I just needed to break the ice – which would need to include helping her know that I existed – and the magic would take care of itself. One evening destiny could wait no longer. My palms were sweating, my breathing was shallow, and I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest. I went to the phone and dialed (yes, dialed) her number as my knees began buckling beneath me.
You know that feeling? Like when you know you need to act on something, but you’re not sure you can make yourself do it? You know it’s the right thing, even the necessary thing, to do, but it would be so much easier to not take the step? I remember the first time I went rappelling, and the utter fear of taking a step backwards off the cliff.
Those were deeply impressionable moments, but the same dynamic faces us all the time. We feel the nudge to make a phone call, knock on a neighbor’s door, speak up, enter into someone’s messy reality, or fall on our knees. And it can be scary.
It gets complicated when we wonder if the nudge is just us being crazy. Or emotional. Or desperate. Or manipulative.
So often in Scripture, the nudge people experience sends them in a surprising, counter-intuitive direction. Jonah was told to go to preach in Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s most feared and hated enemies. Peter was prompted to go to Caesarea to Cornelius, a centurion and an unclean gentile (Acts 10).
“Nudge,” of course, as in the cases above, can be a euphemism. You can be “nudged” by a kick in the rear or by a supernatural vision. Those things can and do still happen today, but on the whole most of our nudges are internal, incessant voices, often whispers. The problem is, we often treat them as exceptional instead of learning to listen for God’s distinctive voice, or to be sensitive to God’s distinctive touch.
More on that soon…
Oh, and that phone call with Shannon... God bless her, she let me down easy.