Occasionally it's taut. More often, it's not. But whatever its size or shape, your "gut" is worth listening to. I'm talking about the inward voice that tells you to stop when there's no stop sign. And sure enough, stopping keeps you from hitting the kid who runs into the street after a ball. Or it tells you to go to college A, even though the financial aid package is better at college B. And you wind up marrying the kindred spirit you meet at A.
No doubt about it, that "gut" our intuition talks to us. And thank heavens it does. The hard part, of course, is listening and following through. I know from experience how hard that is. Not long ago, in fact, something told me to shop on Saturday for the special bread I needed for company on Sunday. Again and again and in a variety of ways that "something" spoke to me. Did I listen? No. On Sunday the store was open, but there was no bread. They don't bake on Sundays. Argh!
As I climbed back into the car, empty-handed, I said to my daughter, "Something told me to get the bread yesterday."
"That was God talking to you, Mom," she promptly replied.
"You're right," I grumbled. "I wish I'd listened." In this case, I could undo my error pretty easily. With a few more stops and a little more money than I'd planned to spend, I had an alternative ready to serve my guests, who never knew the difference.
At other times, though, failing to follow my gut has had stiffer consequences. Like that time I didn't listen to the quiet but clear messages to take one job over another; or not to go on that particular trip; or to redirect a relationship or two. Damage control in those cases took more effort than finding some alternate loaves of bread. But in the big cases as in the small ones, the constant comfort in it all is that the message was there.
The message is always there, because God is always with us. And the message comes from God. It's the "still small voice" that Elijah heard (see I Kings 19:12). More often than not, I "hear" that voice as a gut feeling a deep down, beyond-words intuition about who I am and what I should do. The fact that it's a "still small voice" makes it seem as though it would be easy to miss. Yet Elijah knew without a doubt that the voice was God's.
How could he be so sure? And how can we be certain? There's a clue, I think, in the weeks before Elijah heard God speaking (see I Kings 19:4-8). Despondent and with a death threat hanging over his head, Elijah lies down under a juniper tree. As he sleeps, an angel appears and tells him to get up and eat. When he opens his eyes, Elijah finds a cake and a jug of water beside him. He eats and drinks and goes back to sleep. The angel comes to him again, and the scene repeats itself. Then, the Bible says, Elijah "went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb," where he recognizes God in the "still small voice."
I suspect Elijah feasted that night on more than bread and water. Perhaps the angel nourished him with spiritual truths as well, truths mighty enough to sustain him for the journey ahead. This makes me wonder if we're more likely to hear and heed the "still small voice" if we've feasted recently on God's word. Maybe it even helps to be constantly "chewing," so to speak, on some morsel of truth.
I think it helps, too, to know that what feels like God speaking to us is actually the intelligence of the universe speaking through us. We're created by that divine intelligence, or Mind. We're Mind's ideas, so what Mind knows naturally resonates with us. The Bible says, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jer. 29:11). In my experience, gut feelings are God's "thoughts of peace" to me. Without fanfare, still and small and strong, they come. Slowly but surely, I'm learning that listening to and following them is the most direct route to that peaceful "expected end."
Love inspires, illumines,
designates, and leads the way.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)