I’m gonna tell you a little story inspired by my friend’s post today at Therapy For Black Men.
When my husband and I were dating, I would commonly take a back road from his house to mine. The highway wound through the foothills along the Cascade Mountains north of Seattle and connected both our houses. It wasn’t necessarily faster, but it FELT faster sometimes to just hop on the highway instead of spending 10 minutes driving through town to get to the freeway before heading home.
One night, I left Johnny’s house pretty late, around midnight. And I started driving to the highway, intending to take the back road home.
Something felt off. I had this feeling I should get off the highway and drive home on I-5 instead.
But I ignored the feeling and kept driving. Even choosing to stay on the back road when I came up to a side road that connected to the freeway.
As I drove along the back road the feeling got stronger and stronger. Until I got to a point where my heart was racing and I slowed down to about 20 miles an hour. I just knew something was wrong.
It was a VERY dark road with no lights AND it was raining.
I came over a small hill, still going VERY slow because of the incredible feeling I was having, and there across the road was a fallen tree.
It covered the entire road and it was HUGE. Probably a 100-150 year old cedar.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe I had had such a strong feeling about a fallen tree!!
I ended up having to turn around and go back to the side road to take I-5 home. Costing me almost 30 minutes.
I have never forgotten that night, and I don’t think I ever will. I learned a powerful lesson that night about listening to my gut, even when it doesn’t make sense and there is no physical evidence before me.
In high school, I had an off feeling about a family friend, but told myself I was just being weird. He ended up going to jail for child molestation.
In my late teens and early twenties, I had an off feeling about a man I knew. But I told myself he joked around with everyone and it wasn’t really flirting, until the day he came onto me and I was so filled with fear that I was absolutely paralyzed by it, convinced he was going to rape me, but thankfully we were interrupted and I never spoke to him again.
As a middle-schooler, I remember feeling very uncomfortable around a friend‘s mom. Not unsafe, just the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. She ended up having an affair with another man, leaving her husband and children, having a baby that she gave up for adoption, and then moved out of state.
Many of us have stories like this. In fact, I bet all of us do.
This feeling in your gut is called discernment. And God gave it to you.
To Discern [verb] – To perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; to see, recognize, or apprehend: to distinguish mentally; recognize as distinct or different; discriminate.
Listen to your gut. Learn to listen those feelings of unsettling. Invite God into the tension and ask, “Is this from you? You are welcome here.”
When you grow up in an abusive home, you are taught to ignore your most basic needs. The need for love, affection, touch, joy. You tell yourself over and over that you do not need these things like other people do, you tell yourself this so that you can survive living with your own broken heart. You tell yourself these things so that you can survive your own environment.
Every single time I ignored my gut feeling, I’ve regretted it. Sometimes, I have regretted it immensely, and ignoring the spirit of discernment cost me dearly. Other times it turned out only to be a small inconvenience. Other times, it just might have saved my life, like the fallen tree across a dark road at midnight.
Learning to trust your instincts, your gut, is a process for sure. It takes testing. It takes a lot of prayer. It takes confidence in yourself, and willingness to speak up. And you will make mistakes. But over time you come to listen to that still small voice of the Holy Spirit deep inside you, inside your very bones. and you learn to ask questions and to demand more from the people around you and you learn that who God has made you to be is enough in and of itself. Always, always we need more of him.
Do not be afraid to lean into that difficult space between discernment and action. Those difficult spaces are where growth happens.