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It’s a story told with many variations… this is an adapted clerical version.

A big storm approaches. The weatherman urges everyone to get to higher ground. In his rectory, a priest says, “I won’t worry, God will save me”.

The water rises. A National Guard truck comes by to rescue the priest. He tells them “Don’t worry, God will save me.”

The water rises some more. The priest is forced up to his roof. A boat comes by to rescue the priest. He tells them “Don’t worry, God will save me.”

The water rises higher. The priest is forced up to the very top of his roof. A helicopter comes to rescue the priest. He shouts up at them “Don’t worry, God will save me.”

The water rises above his house, and the priest drowns.

When he gets up to heaven he says to God “I’ve been your faithful servant ever since I was born! Why didn’t you save me?”

God replies “First, I sent you the weatherman, then a truck,  a boat, and finally a helicopter. What more do you want from me!!??”

The point is that in each instance someone was trying to “nudge” another to a wise choice. 

The authors of “Nudge” describe nudges as “subtle ways that push us toward the best choices—the choices we would make for ourselves if we weren’t susceptible to cognitive bias, temptation, or social influence.” In this case, probably all three were involved.

Nudges past.

In one sense God was the first nudge. Enjoy everything… but don’t eat the fruit of this tree.

Over the pages of the Old Testament, we see God using lots of nudges. God used a burning bush, a still small voice in the night, etc. Often we call them prophets or angels.

In the pages of the New Testament, we see Jesus himself acting so often as a nudge. Think of the questions he asks, the stories he told, and the things he did. They were all designed to get his listeners and observers to think and make a better choice. One could say God was urging them to think outside the boxes of their normal ways of thinking and acting. Think of his most dramatic nudges …  washing their feet, forgiving even those who nailed Him to a cross!

He even promised that his own spirit would nudge them beyond their current expectations and ways of doing things.

Read the Acts of the Apostles to see our early history of listening to God’s nudges. The Spirit nudged the early followers of Christ to think beyond their boxes and do what they did not think they could do.

Nudges present

When I read the book of my own life, I realize how many nudges I have had but so often ignored.

How about you? Can you name the times and ways Jesus’ Holy Spirit nudged you to a deeper understanding of what it means to be the body of Christ in the world today?

Let me suggest another way of looking at Pope Francis’ two-year process for all of us to listen to each other. Certainly, the Holy Spirit will be present in the meeting rooms around the world. During these two years will we recognize the Holy Spirit nudging each of us to expand our limited understanding of God’s plan for our good?

Nudges in Action

  • Do you recognize the nudges in your life?
  • What track record do you have in listening to God’s nudges?
  • Have you ever thought of yourself as someone God uses to nudge?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

Do you ignore nudge’s?