I’ve observed that many people are uncomfortable when they hear Christians use language like “God told me to,” or “God spoke to me” to help explain decisions they’ve made or paths they’ve chosen. I’ve tried to translate this to non-church folks as the same thing as “a gut feeling” or “a mother’s intuition” – you just know.
Lately, I’ve found yet another way to explain what it’s like hearing God’s voice: you follow the peace. Whenever I have a decision to make, I strive to choose whatever makes me feel calm, light or relieved. It can be for something as small as deciding if it’s smart to squeeze in a couple loads of laundry at the end of a long day, or as big as a major life decision. My first opportunity to follow the peace came during one of those pivotal life moments.
During my freshman year of college at St. Thomas, I had the opportunity to audition for a music theater program at a school in La Crosse, WI. I never really expected to get in, so when I found out I was accepted into the program, I had a decision to make. I’m an extreme homebody by nature, my friends and my boyfriend were up here, and I was doing well at my school. Despite the many reasons I was anxious about transferring, I remember thinking about it one day waiting for my car to fill up at a gas station and feeling a wave of calm come over me. I knew then that I had to take this step out of my comfort zone and try something new in La Crosse. It wasn’t easy – there were a lot of tears, and I really didn’t want to do it. But, I just knew that I had to do it. I’ve often looked back at that being my first big “God told me to” moment, and it was all because I followed that wave of peace.
Another experience happened recently as I was praying about ways to get myself back on a healthy track. Like many women, as a teenager and young adult, I tried to diet all the time and never saw the results I wanted. In my mid-twenties, I realized that all of those (failed) dieting attempts gave me anxiety – oh, and I also realized I was a major stress eater. So, I figured out that to be healthy, I needed to stop dieting, which inherently curbed my stress eating and brought me to a healthy place with my body and my mind. I promised myself I would never diet again, which was a huge relief and exactly what I needed at the time – I followed the peace.
Well, lately the realities of being a mother of two in a thirty-something body have caught up with me and, despite my promise, when I contemplated trying a diet again, I no longer felt that same stress come over me. In fact, as I reflected on that option, I remembered that over the past year, a few different people had told me about a really great fitness app (My Fitness Pal, if you’re interested!), which actually made me feel hopeful that using it would give me a plan to get my health back under control. This time the peace led me toward a diet of sorts, and I feel like God is putting me on the path to regain my health at a point where I can also teach my young family good habits at the same time.
In all of these examples, I “just knew” something was right. Call it what you will: “feeling it in your gut,” “God telling you to go a certain way,” but for now, my favorite explanation is that all I need to do is follow the peace.