Sensing God’s Nudges
Melissa Brotton | 10 Sunday 2019 |
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV
There is a way to hear God, we are told in Scripture. Psalmists such as David, Asaph, and Ethan weave God’s responsive voice through their dialogue poems like macramé. “Selah” is a mysterious word that signifies a meditational delay inside the prayer: “pause, and calmly think of that,” the Amplified Bible puts it.
But hearing God’s voice in our individual lives is something we are left to wrestle with on our own, it would seem. On the one hand, we’ve been told that God speaks most clearly through:
Impressions on the heart,
The counsel of believing friends, and
Unless we are sociopaths, we have all experienced the voice of conscience in moments of temptation, and perhaps of warning in times of danger.
We’ve also been around zealous folks who say they’ve heard God, when it is likely not the case.
But just because some people go overboard with hearing God doesn’t mean that God never speaks—and it is easy to let the pendulum get stuck on the other side.
That’s where I was about fifteen years ago. At that time I had experienced a personal revival and was seeking to hear God in the same ways that my believing friends seemed (so easily) to do. Hearing God was important to me, especially when trying to make life decisions such as what job to take, or who to date, for example.
Then there were the smaller, daily choices I wanted God’s input on. My friends shared their experiences. I remember the phrase, “God nudged me.”
“God nudged me”? For one, it was absurd. How was it possible to know it was God nudging you? Isn’t it too easy to convince ourselves that God wants what we want? But I was honest with myself. Beneath an exterior of disbelief, I was flat-out envious. Why would God be so willing to nudge others and not me? This thought led to more a worrisome one: Why wasn’t I feeling God’s nudge? Was it because I couldn’t hear Him? Worse, what if God wasn’t trying to nudge me at all? What if He didn’t think I was worth His nudge?
So I kept the thought of God’s nudging at bay for a time. But the question resurfaced on its own and rose to a crescendo one afternoon on the phone with my mother.
“What do you mean, ‘God’s been nudging you to get a car?’” I asked.
“He’s been nudging me.” Her voice was matter-of-fact.
I felt my feathers ruffle slightly. “How do you know it was God?”
“Because He’s done it before.”
“Well, maybe it’s just obvious that you need a new car. Maybe it’s not God,” I replied.
“I guess we’ll see,” she said mildly. “I’ve been looking into it, and I want a PT Cruiser with a low interest rate.”
I was aware already that God could fill tall orders with specificity, but the request also seemed a bit brazen in a world of natural disasters and starving people. Nevertheless, I decided to pray about it anyway. “Dear Lord, You know my mom wants a PT Cruiser with a low interest rate. I know You can do anything. Thank You. Amen.”
About a week later she called to tell me she was coming to see me in her new PT Cruiser.
“It’s midnight blue,” she said.
“Really?” I admit the news was a bit startling.
“Yes, it’s so nice. So easy to get in and out of.”
I couldn’t think of what to say.
“And did I tell you it was zero-percent interest?”
“Mmm,” I grunted, feeling a little numb.
Though I was impressed with Mom’s experience, I still remained doubtful about the nudge part. Yes, God can do anything, I knew, but had God been the one to impress her to get a new car? A few months later, I heard it again.
“Guess what,” a family friend said excitedly, “God is nudging me to get a new car.”
“Oookaaay.” I felt a ping of envy on my head.
“Yes,” she continued. “And I saw it—a blue Toyota Camry.”
The ping traveled down my neck and nested between my shoulder-blades.
“I’m tight for money right now,” she added, “but I feel impressed to pray about it.”
“Wow, I wish I could get a nudge from God to buy a car,” I said, feeling sulky.
“You will,” she said, “And you’ll know it’s Him.”
I had mixed feelings about these nudges. On the one hand, I was happy that people I knew were relying on God to help them. But self-pity puddled around my heart, and I was still wallowing in it three weeks later when my friend called again to announce her new “catalina blue” Camry.
“Ridiculously low interest rate,” she said.
I felt stunned. How could this happen to two people I knew within such a short time. Slowly, my doubt began to dissipate. Maybe, just maybe, it was possible to feel a nudge from God even to buy a car.
The thought lingered and was still with me one afternoon a year later, when, sitting in my mother’s kitchen, I had a thought dart through my brain about a new car. I had just been hired for a new teaching position in a different part of the country and had very little in savings, being a recent graduate.
“Hmm,” I thought, “was that a nudge? The nudge?”
But wait a minute! Isn’t it pretty normal to consider getting a new car when thinking about moving. After all, my old car was starting to have some problems. Wasn’t it just common sense? Practical?
“God’s not practical?” A competing voice chimed in.
So I put it to the test.
“Dear Jesus,” I prayed, “please help me find an economical car. My top choice is Saturn, but I’ll take anything else. Thank you for Your help. Amen. Oh, and please let there be a zero-percent interest rate.” Might as well maximize my request, I thought.
Later that day, I followed up on a friend’s suggestion to call around to dealerships, and within three hours of my prayer I had traded in my old car for a new “cranberry” Saturn Ion III. And the best part was the zero-percent interest rate.
Scripture says God is always on the lookout for those to whom He can reveal his power and love. It is humbling to look back at God’s touch and guidance in my life. While my relationship with Jesus has never been grounded in the purchase of cars, I believe He used that series of events to teach me to trust incrementally, building stronger faith into my life as He continues to do today. In fact I believe Jesus is always nudging us if we take selah seriously. And while He’s taught me to trust His “great and mighty things,” He reminds me that He is also in the details.
A little while ago I again felt God’s nudge to buy a new car.
“You’ll never find a RAV4 with zero-percent interest,” a friend informs me. “Are you kidding?”
“Well, not on my own,” I say with a smile.
One month later a brand new “pyrite mica” RAV4 is gleaming in my driveway.
And, yup. Zero-percent interest.
Melissa Brotton is Associate Professor of English at La Sierra University, where she teaches writing and literature courses. Her special areas are nineteenth-century British literature and religious studies. She has published on the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Biblical ecology. She spends a lot of time outdoors, paints, and writes nature stories and poems.