Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Lent for Extroverts 25: I have a hunch...

I have always been uncomfortable with the declaration, made by some that 'God told me to do such and such', but looking through the bible, it would appear that this is how many individuals did actually hear God's voice. In fact it's quite the norm for whole conversations of great detail to be recorded between believers and God, in which God is either listing the measurements of a new Tabernacle in minute detail (Exodus 25); itemising purity laws that run to greater length than an entire NHS manual (Leviticus 11), or sending someone to a specific address where a certain man will be for whom they must perform some service (Acts 9: Ananias going to heal Saul's blindness).

Opinion seems divided on whether it gets harder or easier to hear God's voice as you go through the Christian life. I understand the viewpoint that part of the maturing process is to experience the apparent silence of God, as it makes you more reliant on seeking God for God alone, and not for what He might be able to do for you. But it would appear to be unfortunate timing that just as you might be mature enough to take on leadership of some sort, you begin to find it more and more difficult to discern God's actual voice.

The more I read Old and New Testament accounts of how God spoke with individuals, the more detached they appear to be from my actual experience. I have never heard a long message from God which itemises everything in such detail as per bible accounts. It's been much more an impression, a hunch, a 'feeling' (oh, but you can't trust your feelings....) that maybe, it's just possible, that I might just think about considering doing such and such. As an option amongst other possible options, of course. 

You can imagine the chaos if this impressionistic, hunch-like feeling were all that the bible heroes had to go on: 

Moses: I've got this sort of hunch that maybe we should build a kind of building thing for God to be worshipped in...
Aaron: Could you be more specific?
Moses: Well, I think maybe we ought to use some, maybe, building materials...?
Aaron: Yesss.........what did you have in mind?
Moses: Well, I had a vague impression that maybe something that will last a bit longer than tents....?
Aaron (to himself: this is going to be painful...)

Or Ananias:
Ananias: I had a very small feeling this morning that maybe there's someone who needs my help out there...
Mrs Ananias: Yes? Anyone in particular?
Ananias: To be honest I can't really be sure - someone who's possibly quite nearby?
Mrs Ananias: Well, the maidservant's been very glum recently...
Ananias: Not, not her....Oh, I dunno, I'll ponder it for a few weeks and see if I get any clarity...
Mrs Ananias: Probably best; we are awfully busy these days...

Or for that matter: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King: 'I have a hunch....'

But maybe there's more to be said for the hunch than first meets the eye. I had one a few days ago. I thought it was probably just me, but I pondered my hunch and sent an email, in which I chose some words carefully, on a hunch. Which led to an impression that I should pray for someone. Which led to a conversation around a decision that needed God's guidance. Guidance that in His great kindness, He apparently wanted me to be involved in.

So today I am giving thanks for the hunch. It may not quite be divine lightning falling from the heavens; it may not lead to a huge new Cathedral being built round here, or someone being miraculously healed of blindness; but it may just be the still small voice that, especially this Lent, I need to hear and act upon.


  1. I wonder whether, if we acted more often on our "hunches," that we might gradually begin to learn which were really God speaking to us and which were simply our own fevered imaginations. If we don't act on them, then we never find out - except perhaps as something to regret. Then, perhaps this is what Ignatius Loyola's Exercises were about, and what he meant by discernment?

  2. I think you might be right. Though also it's something I got from my immersion at one point in the charismatic movement; that God does 'speak' and acting on the 'hunches' will definitely increase the likelihood of hearing him the next time. As far as I understand it, Ignatian spirituality is more about finding the general direction of your life by attending to what blesses you and what drains you. I'm not sure if there's contained within it the idea that God guides you by 'speaking' to you about specific things; it seems more general awareness of the life of Jesus in you, leading you to identification with him.
    I would be really interested to explore further the connection between Charismatic and Ignatian spirituality. I experienced it last summer...but that's another story!