May 27, 2018
Have you ever felt the Holy Spirit nudge you? It can be subtle like a gentle bump and at other times like a strong pull towards something. Some may call it a leading, a quickening, or a knowing. Sometimes this feeling will lead or draw you. Other times it will pull you up short and put a “check in your spirit”. It’s often hard to put this nudge into words. It’s almost like a spiritual intuition, but more, because as you listen and learn to follow the leading, you find that there is no way this leading could come from yourself, but rather from Someone much greater.
I love that God included the book of Acts in the Bible so that we can see how men and women of faith walked out God’s calling in their lives. Acts is full of ways that the Holy Spirit spoke and moved among those first believers. There are visitations by angels, dreams and visions, the voice of the Holy Spirit, and personal prophecies. There are also hints in Acts of the nudge of the Holy Spirit.
There was a time where the disciples were faced with a controversy in the church (Acts 15:1-31). When they responded to the controversy they gave an answer that implied they were following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 15:28 – It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements…
They followed what “seemed good”… that leading… that nudge.
I had an interesting experience a few months ago attempting to follow the nudge of the Holy Spirit. I was taking an “Entering His Presence Through Art” class taught by my sister, Pennie (pennieart.com). In one of the classes I drew some handcuffs on a piece a paper while God talked to me about how I often trust my own thinking over the leading of the Holy Spirit. Later in the class we were directed to follow God’s leading and paint something over what we had drawn previously. I thought, “I’ll just paint a butterfly. It would be easy to turn these handcuffs into one. That would just make sense.” But then I remembered that God was talking to me about trusting His leading and not my own brain. So I decided to just paint in His leading… Ask what color to use… Ask where to place my brush… Follow the nudge.
As I followed what “seemed good” colorful circles appeared on my paper…
and my brain started screaming at me.
This is stupid. What is this supposed to be.
We are supposed to paint something, not just blobs.
Are you even sure what you are following is God? What you are following is so subtle, so small.
Surely He isn’t really directing you to just make blobs of color.
Oh, now there is a swirled line. What is that?
It’s colorful, but nothing more. It’s supposed to be something.
No wonder I want to trust my brain.
When the exercise was over. I stared at my picture wanting to see something in it… wanting to know that I had indeed been following God’s leading and not just fooling myself into believing that the little nudge was Him. I saw nothing… nothing, but color. Disappointment and doubt filled me. I’d tried so hard to ignore my head and listen to the Spirit and now I felt there was nothing really to show for it.
I was ready to give up, to conclude that what I was following wasn’t really the Spirit’s nudge, when I turned the painting upside down and saw… A BUTTERFLY.
It was exactly what I had initially thought I should paint only more colorful and artistic than anything I would have done on my own. The Holy Spirit was leading me all along… taking my brain out of the picture so I could paint the butterfly He had for me. It’s almost like God hid what was happening from me so that I couldn’t step in and mess it up… or step in and make it MINE instead of HIS.
This little painting isn’t extraordinary in its artistic expertise nor will it ever grace someone else’s wall, but on my wall it is a good, consistent reminder that I can understand the Spirit’s nudge. I can choose to ignore my own brain and look to Him to direct me. Not only can I do that, but when I do, the results are always far better than what I can do on my own. But even more important than the results is the process… the asking and listening… the learning to lean on the Holy Spirit.
There are a few verses from Proverbs pop into my mind when I think about following God’s plan instead of my own.
Proverbs 16:9 – A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps. (HCSB)
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. (HCSB)
The verses in Proverbs 3 were my “life verses” back when I was in High School. They were even on my high school announcements. Long ago I felt like I had taken these verses in and lived by them, yet here they are again. Perhaps in each new season, each new area of life, we must learn again how to rely on God’s leading and guidance.
In this season of life I can confidently say that a nudge by the Holy Spirit is one of the main ways that I am learning to follow His leading. It may not always look like I think it should, but as I learn to follow God in the little things like a painting, it becomes much easier to recognize His nudge in the big things. So today I’m going to lean in and listen to the nudge and tell my screaming brain that God’s ways are better. I can trust Him to nudge me in the right direction.