Shoulder taps, nudging, prompting--all are different ways of trying to explain the feeling of being told to do something by a voice within other than your own. Some would view this as the prompting of God or the Holy Spirit, some would call it an inner voice, or some form of intuition. This week, I watched a short video of a man describing a beautiful encounter he had when he listened to that "shoulder tap". I encourage you to watch it here. I will summarize below if you are unable to watch.
This man was out to dinner when he felt an internal nudge to tell the elderly woman sitting near him that she looked beautiful. He felt rather strange going up to a stranger, but decided to listen to the inner voice. On the way out he stopped at her table and told her, "In case no one else tells you today, I just wanted you to know that you look lovely." In the emotional exchange that followed, the woman revealed to him that it had been one year since her husband had died and that was the exact thing he would have said to her. Tears fell. Hugs were shared. He followed the prompting even though it would have been easy to dismiss it. As a result, both were blessed by the exchange. Thankfully, he chose to respond to the shoulder tap. Sweet, but powerful story.
Have you ever had this happen to you? Have you been on the receiving end of a perfectly timed phone call or conversation that was out of the blue but EXACTLY what you needed to hear? Have you felt the unexplained nudge and acted on it? Have you made the call or responded to the internal request even though it seemed strange, or inconvenient, or even a little embarrassing? It really is like lightning in the bottle when it happens. There is no way to explain the randomness of the thought or the specificity of the act. While I can think of several times that I have experienced it either on the giving or receiving end, there is one time that will stick with me forever.
Back in the summer of 2005, my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It was bad, but he was fighting a good fight and doing pretty well all things considered. By January 2006, he made the difficult decision to stop treatment. The prognosis was not good, but no one could put an expiration date on my dad. In February, he decided to make a solo trip from Florida to Pennslyvania to see his extended family for several days. I was living in St. Louis at the time and considered meeting him in PA, but it was logistically difficult to make the trip and we had already made plans to see him in Florida in just a few weeks. My sister decided to go, so I once again considered joining them but still didn't feel like the timing was right. Uncharacteristically, my dad called me a few times during the trip to let me know how much fun he was having. Tempting, but still I was comfortable with my decision to wait until March to visit. In a moment that I recall with great clarity, I woke up on Saturday morning with a very clear voice in my head saying "go". I briefly tried to dismiss it with all of the difficulties that this trip would cause, but the voice was so strong- "GO"- that I decided there was no option but to go. Obstacles fell away as we packed up the family and drove to Pennsylvania to surprise my dad. We had a great visit--lots of stories and laughter, much love from the extended family around him, and all of his favorite foods. It was truly a blessing to have that time together.
What I couldn't have known then was that he would take a sudden turn for the worse right after returning home and pass away days later. Despite all of the physical evidence to the contrary, he did not live until our scheduled visit just a few weeks later. Had I not listened to that nudge, had I not listened to the voice that said "go", I would have never seen my dad again.
That was a pretty significant shoulder tap.
I am so thankful that I listened.
I would agree with the man in the video- my dad and I were both blessed by my obedience. I wonder how many times I have ignored the shoulder tap, or tried to explain it away using logic and excuses. How many people have missed out on a special moment because I didn't pay attention to the prompting? And how many moments have I missed out on because others did the same?
Regardless of what you call it or where you think it comes from; it is important to listen for those moments. Know that by making the choice to respond you may share the perfect words that someone needs to hear at the exact moment they need to hear them, or you may compliment a person in a specific way that will make his/her day (or year), or you may hug someone who hasn't had a hug in a very long time, or you may even hear direction that could change your own life.
We are all busy and distracted, but listening to that inner voice may be the one thing that we should always make time to do. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable. The direction may even be confusing. But, the shoulder tap really has the power to change someone's day or even their life.
And the really beautiful part is that you will both be changed in the process.
Listen. Respond. Be a blessing.
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