It could be because I am a journalist—always there with another question—but I am prone to uncertainty. At least, I think I am. Maybe. And especially sometimes when it comes to God and His ways. Perhaps.
Like a few weeks ago, while in church, when I got one of those inner whispers that have nothing to do with the sermon.
Don’t second-guess Me.
I told my wife afterward. She smiled.
And then I said, “But maybe it wasn’t Him…”
Such is my life.
This “is-it-or-isn’t-it?” internal debate has a long history. One time, years ago, I arrived at London’s Waterloo Station around suppertime. It was crowded with commuters racing for their trains home, but there were a few people on the fringes who were not moving. They were the homeless who hovered in the terminal, grateful for the warmth, and perhaps an opportunity to rescue an unfinished sandwich from one of the trash cans.
Big Mac meal in hand, I headed toward my gate when I had an inner nudge.
Go and give her your food.
Her. The old lady sitting in the doorway of a closed store, blanket around her feet.
I did a couple of circuits of the station, hoping the notion might pass. It didn’t.
So I went over, stooped down in front of her and offered a smile. I could picture the heavenly planners preparing a seat for me next to Mother Teresa.
“Hey there,” I said, wanting to sound kind and generous without being condescending. “Are you hungry?”
“No, thank you.”
Hmmm. This rather threw a wrench in the Ephesians 2:10 prepared-ahead-of-time-good-works I had envisaged. What to do? Force-feeding the indigent would be rather unseemly.
I mumbled something about God wanting me to give her the food as a token of His love for her. She took it, maybe because she actually was hungry but hadn’t wanted to admit it. Or, perhaps because she thought I was crazy and this was the quickest way to get rid of me.
My self-righteous bubble duly burst, the encounter left me wondering yet again about those kind of nudges. Is it really God, or is it just me? Holy Spirit leading or super-spiritual pride: coming up with ways to help God out because (of course) He needs it?
I have been helped in this regard by Clare de Graaf’s wonderful little book, The 10-Second Rule, which is essentially this: if you think God is prompting you to do something that clearly doesn’t contravene what you already know about Him and His character, do it right away before you can rationalize your way out of it.
Oftentimes we won’t know this side of heaven whether we got it right. But I tend to think that, if we have good intentions, God can bring something good out of it even when we miss-hear. As I have observed previously, we don’t have to understand, we just have to obey.