Nudge: to prod someone gently in order to draw their attention to something and encourage them into action.
I had one of those nudges recently. It saved my life. I’d call it a holy nudge, a prod or gentle poke from the Creator. And here’s how it happened.
I found myself recently at the end of the day unable to communicate intelligibly. My brain knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth.
I dismissed it as a fluke. I must be overly tired I thought. So, I went to bed thinking a good night’s rest would clear up the brain fog.
But, the next morning my inability to communicate continued. I dismissed it once again. It’s just my imagination. It’s part of being middle aged, I thought to myself. It’s nothing. Don’t be a drama king.
But, my midmorning I felt that nudge—in my gut. Something’s not right. You’d better get this checked out. And so, I listened to the Creator’s poke and went to the hospital.
To my surprise, I found out I had had a mild stroke the night before. A small blood clot had formed in the left side of that part of my brain that controls speech.
I was lucky. Had I not gotten to the hospital it could have been much worse. I could have suffered paralysis, or worse yet, had another stroke and died. The “nudge” saved my life. And has allowed me to recover with on-going speech therapy and medication.
There’s lots of nudges we experience each day. Sometimes we’re aware of them. Other times we’re not.
Learning to take notice of holy nudges is like discovering a whole new language. It takes some time to understand them and lots of inner quiet to hear them. But as we get the hang of it, it becomes an amazing way of experiencing Wisdom’s presence and guidance. Then we don’t have to rely upon just our head to figure out life. We gain a third eye, a new source of super-vision we can lean into. One that’s always been there. We just have to become open and awake enough to receive and experience those holy prods from the Creator.
Some nudges call us to immediate action. We instinctively know how to react.
Other nudges are gentler, and we aren’t quite sure what they’re saying to us. So, we ponder them and seek out wise mentors to help us figure them out.
For example, we hear a silent voice within us that says, “Don’t take that way home from work tonight,” and so we take a different route and later learn we dodged a deadly traffic accident. Another inner poke says “Give your friend a call,” and we do, and later learn they were filled with suicidal despair and our call was the hope they needed to talk them off the ledge.
Those much subtler nudges that we don’t immediately know what to do with invite us to be patient and lean into those wisdom-keepers in our life (partners, friends, parents, spiritual mentors), to help us figure out how we’re being led. For example, now that I’ve survived a stroke, I’m pondering and leaning into my mentors to discover: how is God inviting me to slow down, to become more aware of and grateful for the simple things, like life itself, my wife, my children, and friends? How is he nudging me to take a longer view of my life and walk away from my Type A personality?
We have lots of names for those nudges that occur in our daily life: gut reaction, intuition, hunches, the Holy Spirit. And whatever we call them, they’re a way Wisdom communicates with us. They’re nudges from the Divine that lead and guide our hearts. As August Rush said in the movie of the same name, “The music is all around us. All we have to do is listen.”
Perhaps the invitation is to become aware of those nudges that are all around us, to listen to them, trust, and act upon them. And when we do, we look back with awe and deep gratitude as we realize God is holding us in the gentle palm of his hand.
—brian j plachta
(author’s note: this reflection is dedicated to my spiritual friend, Greg, and my lake friend, Nancy. Thank you for teaching me about holy nudges and how the gift of faith is the key to becoming a survivor).
Ponder: What holy nudges have you experienced? Share your story. Let it come alive!
I never got that kiss with Teresa. But as I reflect on that long-ago night, I realize Sister Carmella shared two pieces of wisdom I’ll never forget: to leave room for Jesus and the healing power of a smile.