“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
It was in 1985 that my husband Mike and I came house-hunting in the Lehigh Valley.
The first house we looked at was an 18th century stone farmhouse with hand-hewn beams and vintage folk art on its cellar walls. It was a fixer-upper whose endearing flaws included a hole in the second floor with a view of the kitchen. The hole was small and the house so indisputably charming that I supposed Mike would go about making repairs with a song in his heart and a smile on his lips.
And maybe he would have, if later that day our realtor hadn’t shown us a house that was “perfect for a couple just starting out” – a 1962 brick ranch that had kitchen countertops patterned with pink-and-gray boomerangs. “Perfect” would not have been my first choice of adjective.
We had made it only as far as the kitchen before Mike said, “This is it, Hon.” “No, this isn’t it!” I thought. I couldn’t imagine a “happily ever after” in proximity to Formica boomerangs.
But Mike was adamant, and on the drive back to our Bronx apartment, I asked how he could be so sure. He shrugged the shoulders that were about to carry a major mortgage. “I don’t know, Hon. Gut feeling, I guess.”
Gut feeling is something that I rarely experience. Instead, I’ve got intuition, a unique sensitivity that’s part of what Pope St. John Paul II called “the feminine genius.”
Intuition is what notifies us of Mother’s surprise visit in time to move her Christmas gift of a color-changing fiber optic swan out of the closet and onto the mantel. It nags us to check on Junior even when there’s no reason to suspect he’s stuffing cotton swabs into the floor register. It whispers to us that during the seventh-inning stretch is not the time to tell Dear Husband about the leak in the septic system.
Gut feeling is the masculine counterpart to feminine intuition. It’s the compelling force that enables men to make life-altering decisions between the kick-off and the first down. Gut feeling is feminine intuition with a testosterone boost.
Even though my husband is very logical, his home-buying decision had less to do with rational analysis and more to do with a gut feeling of certitude.
Scripture contains similar examples: Andrew and James walking away from their work to follow Jesus, the Magi changing course on their journey, Peter dropping his net for a catch in waters that seemed bereft of fish. These men, having a limited amount of information on which to base their actions, based them largely on their feelings.
This is not a bad thing, as our emotions are a gift from God to help with discernment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “Feelings or passions are emotions … that incline us to act or not to act in regard to something felt or imagined to be good or evil” (CCC 1763). As Christians attuned to the Holy Spirit and striving for wisdom and virtue, we ought naturally to be making prudent decisions in keeping with God’s will.
What about the ranch house? Well, it’s been our home for the past 38 years. I honestly believe that Mike’s long-ago gut feeling was the voice of the Holy Spirit, saying something like, “Hey, you there! Buy that house! And you better put a fence around the backyard, because you’re going to have a lot of kids running around the place!”
That’s exactly what happened, fence, kids, and all. And although the kids are grown and the nest is empty, I believe the future holds wonderful surprises. Call it a gut feeling.
By Celeste Behe, a parishioner of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Hellertown. Find her online at www.CelesteBehe.com.