by Rev. Racquel Ray
Assoc. Minister of Congregational Life
God is always speaking to us. Sometimes, God’s messages are obvious. And sometimes, God whispers. Often, these messages are incredibly subtle. In a recent conversation with some clergy colleagues, we called them “God Nudges”.
How often have you had a thought to visit someone, or make a phone call and it turned out to be exactly the right thing to do at the exact moment? In ministry, I have often been called to a certain place, person, or event and later came to realize that I happened to be there precisely at the right moment. And, came to realize that it wasn’t me at all but the One who ‘sent’ me. That ‘nudge’ is often God.
This inner voice can be referred to as the Holy Spirit, God, our conscience, intuition, and many other terms. Each person may come to their own understanding of what that gut feeling is – or whom it is. For me, and for many of my colleagues, that Nudge is God. The still-speaking God we often talk about in the UCC is the One who sometimes directs our steps toward others in need – at just the right time.
Recently, a colleague was supporting people in hospice and had the urge to visit them on a particular day. That meant rescheduling the day around the visits which they did. The visits were profound and brought the minister to a place of growth, providing just the right prayer and words, in just the right moment. And, as you may predict, the people passed away within a few days afterwards – at a time when the minister would not have been able to make it.
The nudge – to rearrange the day in order to make the time to make the visit – to do the hard work of ministry in just the right time is easy to ignore. We are often so busy with our lives, schedules, meetings, appointments etc. that we can miss our subtle cues to service. We can be easily pulled away from the subtleties of intuition. We can miss or dismiss the nudge.
Listening to the nudge from God requires our vulnerability and reaching out to others in need exposes both us and the other person. And yet, that is precisely where God asks us to be. We are bare before the other person in sharing that ‘God placed it on my heart to call you’ or ‘God told me you could use a visit’ or ‘You won’t believe this but….’ We often minimize the still small voice of God directing our steps and when we say it out loud to others it seems like we’re revealing a deep secret – “God said…” We also lay bare another’s vulnerability when we know that they need help and we are there to provide it. Further, standing bare before God and vulnerable to others can draw us to profound humility. How awesome is it that God would use us in such a way?!
Often, when asked, “How are you?” people will reply, “I’m fine. How are you.” Rarely will the other person say, “Funny you should ask. I just prayed to God for help. And here you are.” Because, it feels so uncomfortable to admit our vulnerabilities and theirs, we often answer the questions politely. I remember being taught as a child to just answer that I was ‘fine’ because no one really wanted to hear otherwise when I wasn’t.
Can you imagine our community if we each had the ability – including time, intuition, and inclination – to respond to the God Nudges we receive? And can you imagine our responses to others who come to us when we needed them the most? What would our dialogue look like?
Responding to God’s Nudges may come easily for you. Yeah, you! You’ve come to lean on God’s subtleties and have arranged your listening heart to hear from God. That’s awesome! I’d love to hear ALL about it. And maybe, you’re reading this with sighs and eye rolls thinking that God doesn’t talk to people. That’s also awesome and I’d love to hear ALL about it.
For myself, many of my colleagues, and many of you God Nudges are how you measure your day, your week, month, or year. Responding to them and finding ourselves in just the right place at the right time can bring profound joy and the humbling realization that it wasn’t me but the One who sent me all along.