By Denae Jones –
Do you ever just have a feeling? Like, when you know something is just not right but don’t really know why? Like when the GPS tells you to go one way, but you have a feeling you should take another route, only to find a bad accident happened the first way. Or, something tells you to turn around and go back to the house, and you realize you’ve left the iron plugged in.
We hear news stories all the time when someone gets hurt and tells the interviewer that they had a feeling something was wrong, but didn’t act on it. Or, on the flip side, maybe they helped someone because something told them to follow a different morning routine. Some call it intuition or instinct. Whatever it is, I usually go with my gut feeling because it’s almost always right.
I am so thankful that my seven-year old niece’s teacher acted on her gut feeling a couple of weeks ago. She was helping another student with a math paper and just sensed that something was wrong. She looked up and saw that my niece was gagging. The teacher was expecting her to vomit, but her face was red. She immediately went to her and asked if she was okay, and my niece just said the word ‘quarter’. Since she was able to get enough air to talk, the teacher knew it was not life-threatening in that moment, but could get that way quickly. She rushed her to the office for help.
Turns out, my niece was holding a quarter in her hand to buy a water at lunch. She covered a sneeze with that hand, and inhaled the quarter as she sneezed. X-rays showed the quarter lodged in her esophagus, and the entire day was spent carefully scanning and tracking where the quarter was. If it didn’t move to her stomach, she would need surgery. The ER doctors could not believe that she was still able to speak and breathe. Eventually, the quarter did make its way to her stomach, where it could pass naturally through her system. If her teacher hadn’t listened to her gut instinct and looked up to scan the room, her choking could have gone unnoticed and our story could be much different today.
When my sister went in to update her daughter’s teacher and thank her for what she did, there were tears. Not only for helping save her daughter, but she found out that there was more to this story. Her teacher said that when my sister was working as a medic several years ago, she helped save the life of the teacher’s six-day old son. Her son had RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and my sister was among the responders who rushed him to Children’s Hospital. They realized they helped save the life of each other’s children. How amazing is that?!
We all get those ‘feelings’ from time to time, and the thing is, they come from somewhere. Maybe it is just instinct. But maybe it comes from being in tune with what we’ve learned from past experiences. Or from wisdom handed down from elders in our family. Or from teachers or friends. Or from God. Maybe it’s that still, small voice giving us a nudge.
The problem is that we have to be careful to listen to the correct voices. Rick Warren illustrated it perfectly, and I pictured that image in the old Tom and Jerry cartoons, with the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. Before we do something wrong, that little devil on our shoulder will make the bad stuff look really good. Like it’s no big deal. It will tell us that everyone does it. Times have changed. Do what makes you happy, even if it’s at the risk of your reputation or morals. But then as soon as we do it, that same little devil flips a switch and makes that mistake that was at first ‘no big deal’ seem like a really big deal. He tells us that we messed up too big to be forgiven this time. There’s no way we will ever recover from this. We are useless now.
Don’t fall for those tricks. For every little devil on our shoulders, there is also the little angel of reason. That’s when we take that little voice of wisdom and turn it into discernment. When we judge those voices well. When we are brave enough and strong enough to do what is right, even when it’s inconvenient. Or unpopular. Or no fun. Even when it looks nothing like the plan we had for ourselves. When we just know that it’s right.
So how do we just ‘know’ things? I’m sure science can give us explanations of what happens in our brains during those times, but I can’t. What I can tell you is that the voice you follow is the one you feed. Are you constantly surrounding yourself with negativity? Then that voice will be the loudest. Are you constantly worried about what other people with think of you? Then you will be more in tune with the voice of the culture. The problem is that those things change. What’s good one day will be bad the next. The best bet is to stick with the voice of truth. That never changes. If we stick with the voice of truth, the next time we get that ‘feeling’ we will know how to act on it.
As we were playing a backyard kickball game the other day, I got teary-eyed watching my niece talk smack before she pitched the ball. She is so sweet and cute and spunky, and we were so close to not having her here. I am thankful a million times over for her teacher, who was in tune with that ‘feeling’ that something was wrong. May we all choose well when we feel those voices nudging us.
Have a blessed week, friends!