John 14:16-17 (NRSV)
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
During my hysterectomy for ovarian cancer, a chemotherapy port was attached to my lower rib. For nine weeks, my treatments were infused directly into my abdomen through this port (instead of through my veins), so that the chemotherapy drugs would coat my organs directly. A few months later, I started having terrible muscle spasms near the port. At first, I was able to stop them by breathing slowly and lying still. But each evening they worsened, until one night they would not subside and Jim took me to the emergency room.
When I described my pain as a muscle spasm, the doctor on duty immediately discounted my explanation and replied that she didn’t think this was the problem. Well, it certainly felt like my muscle was tensing, but since she was the professional I began to doubt myself. Several blood tests, an MRI, an X-ray, and lots of numbing pain relievers later, no problems were revealed. After several long hours, I finally had another spasm while an attendant was standing by my bed. He could then see what was happening to me and where the problem was located. Diagnosis: muscle spasm.
My experience serves as an actual physical example of the importance of “listening to my gut.” Had the doctor and I trusted what I was feeling in my gut, we could have saved lots of time and medical expenses.
This expression, “listen to your gut” refers to our intuition. We are wise to pay attention to that “gut feeling” within us that tells us whether something is or isn’t right for us, whether something does or doesn’t fit with our personal integrity, or whether something brings either an inner peace or an inner turmoil to our souls. There are times when our gut compels us to do something even when it doesn’t make sense and yet it feels so right. There are other times when an opportunity seems perfect, but our gut tells us to decline.
I believe that the Spirit speaks to us through our gut feelings. In John 14, Jesus tells his disciples that they will know this Spirit of truth abiding within them. Our gut feelings serve as a way for the Spirit to guide us into our own self-truths. How many of us have been surprised by a gut feeling that we should do something, and then in doing so have discovered a new truth about ourselves or found a blessing in heeding that inner voice?
Jesus goes on to say that the world won’t recognize this Spirit within us. So there may be times when people question our deep intuition or gut feelings (the Spirit’s movement), because from the outside they make no sense. As in my example, the emergency room doctor based decisions on the outer evidence- my recent incisions, my cancer treatment records, and my description of the pain. The doctor wanted to do everything possible to help me but could not fully know what I felt within. Perhaps the doctor assumed the worst, given my situation, and for that reason I am grateful for the thoroughness- even though it proved unnecessary.
People around us may discount our longings or believe we are mistaken. We can be grateful for their input, because we know they want to help us- based on what they are able to see. We have more to go on. We have a greater insight into our souls and a deeper awareness of the Spirit within us. Our gut feelings may not make sense to those around us, but they will make complete sense within us, because we are hearing from the Spirit of truth. The Spirit who reveals our truth.
(As I was contemplating this blog, I dictated my thoughts onto a memo app on my cell phone. I found it a sacred coincidence that when I said the word, “gut” the app entered the word, “God.”)