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When’s the last time you followed your instinct despite not being sure it was the right thing to do? Did it end up being the right call?
Ah, the proverbial gut feeling. I guess we can say gut feelings are like elbows and opinions−everyone has them. They are this instinctual feeling that pervades a moment with either the All Clear signal or the Danger, Danger warning. But, how accurate is this innate evaluator of circumstances and purveyor of quick, just go with it decisions?
I ran across a website that listed five instances you should not ignore. Here are the five: 1. Something feels wrong in my body. 2. I’m in danger. 3. I want to help. 4. I know how to do this. 5. This is it!
As I look at this concise list of five, my gut tells me (yes, pun intended!), No, nothing could ever go wrong in any of these situations!
Of course, I’m being facetious (or is it sarcastic!).
My guess is out of the five, people will tend to respond positively, more times than not, to numbers one and two: especially number two. As for number three, well this gut feeling is probably less prominent and far easier to resist for most. As for number four, how many DIYers have gotten themselves into a heap load of trouble falling that intuition?! And of course, no one has ever been wrong about the one as number five suggests!
Have you ever gone for it and a few paces in you realize you should have stood pat?! Maybe it was that plumbing adventure and you were sure all you needed was a pipe wrench, some Teflon tape and a sagging waist line! Then, before you knew it, you were ankle deep in running water: which, is not so bad if you are, say, about to canoe in a flowing river, but not so good if you are, say, standing in the middle of your kitchen!
Or, maybe the time you were certain this is it or he/she is the one for me! only to discover the other party had posted a fake picture on their profile, wrote eloquently describing a person that turned out not to be them and did not meet any of the physical properties they claimed online when you met them in person. Maybe they really believed the old adage love is blind!
Gut feelings can serve us well; but, here is a cautionary word of warning: they are not omniscient!
Yes, they can be right an uncanny amount of times and in a myriad of ways. It really is quite remarkable how this instinct proves right so many times. But, again, be warned, it is not infallible. It can be wrong.
Our gut feelings do not happen in a proverbial vacuum: moods, circumstances, feelings, even diet can affect them.
It is akin to the all-knowing, all-seeing narratorial third-party they. You know the they about which I speak: They say it’s going to rain today . . . They say that team doesn’t have a chance of winning this Saturday . . . They say he is a real creep . . . They say the economy is only going to get worse.
Ah, they sure do seem to know a whole bunches!
There is within us that survival instinct. The instinct of self-preservation. The gut feeling is part of that survival system, it seems to me. The problem is, and we have to be aware of it, it can be quite myopic. We as human beings run the risk of selfish tendencies. We tend to gravitate around ourselves, unless something else greater pulls us out of this self-involved, narcissistic orbit.
There is the old adage to follow your heart. The problem is our hearts are not all that objective are they? The heart wants what the heart wants, you may have heard recited in some movie or by some love-struck teen. Yeah, it does and so does a two-year old who really wants to pet the snake slithering through the grass!
Above this is what the Bible says. The Bible says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17.9). Oh boy, that does present a problem.
We are told to let our conscience be our guide, but not all consciences hold to the same values. For instance, what would a society look like following the conscience guidelines of Charles Manson? I guess it wouldn’t be much of a society, because everyone would probably kill everyone else. Now, we may argue that Manson has no conscience and that is why he was able to do the things he did. Or, maybe it was the drugs or delusions of grandeur: or, as some say in these parts, he’s nuts!
But, while the Bible does speak positively of conscience, it also warns that we should be careful allowing it to be a blind guide to us. For instance, Paul asserts that there are those who have seared consciences (1 Tim. 4.2) and that some peoples conscience may be weak (1 Cor. 8.10). Even still, scripture does teach that conscience is something God has made innate within humanity (cf. Rom. 2.15). In fact, in the letter of 1 Corinthians, Paul has a lot to say about conscience, so it would be worth the look.
The fact that we are sinners and possess a sin nature causes our consciences, our hearts, our gut feelings and all the rest to be bent in upon ourselves. While self-preservation is not a bad thing, per se, selfishness is a rampant infection of the human race. We must be vigilant and guard against it at all costs.
So, the next time your gut tells you to do or not do this or that, be aware that the brain is not in the gut. But, a waist is a terrible thing to mind . . . or, is it a mind is a terrible thing to waste?!
As believers, we have the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and instruct us. He is far better and more reliable than any of the above. The life of the Christ-follower, the way of discipleship is one where we, more and more, grow sensitive to his voice and leading. We allow him to be the one who leads us in our decisions and choices. We allow him to guide us across the slippery slopes of moral judgments and the pitfalls of personal and communal ethics.
In the end, God, for the believer in Christ, has engifted us with One who surpasses our instincts and moods and feelings. Yes, those other things are part of what makes us human: but, that can sometimes be part of the problem and not the solution.
And remember, that gut feeling may only be a bad case of indigestion!