Many religiously-minded people put a lot of stock in feelings. Meaning, those intuitions that appear full-blown in the mind, seemingly from out of nowhere, that just seem So Absolutely True, they demand to be believed.
Like, God is love, Jesus is watching over me, and such.
Well, last weekend I had an experience that calls into question the veracity of intuitions like that. It started with my Sunday morning habit of making pancakes for breakfast.
More accurately, one large pancake. Which I cook in a correspondingly large pan, that's heated by a large burner on our electric cooktop.
After eating the pancake, which I'd topped with butter, sliced strawberries, and maple syrup, it was time for me to head off to another Sunday habit: a coffeehouse get-together with an old friend, Jim.
Driving into Salem from our rural home south of town, I was idly listening to the news on satellite radio, not thinking about much of anything except, most likely, about the latest episode in the ongoing Trump administration drama.
Then it hit me -- a message suddenly popped into my mind as if it had been beamed in from an outside source. There was no mistaking what I was being told.
BURNER ON! YOU LEFT THE PANCAKE BURNER ON!
I shifted my attention from the car radio to what seemed like a Red Alert in my brain.
My wife was in central Oregon. I'd stayed home rather than accompany her to the vacation home in Black Butte Ranch that we share with three other couples, because a company was scheduled to sealcoat our driveway on Monday, and I felt that one of us should be there in case any questions arose.
So calling my wife to check the burner wasn't an option. I tried to remember whether I'd turned the burner off, but no distinct memory surfaced.
Logically, it seemed unlikely that I'd departed our house after leaving a pan on the stove with the burner on, since I hadn't done this for many, many years. In fact, maybe never. But that damn voice in my head, BURNER ON!, had been so clear and distinct. And it had appeared all on its own, since I hadn't been thinking about anything related to my breakfast when the alert popped into my mind.
Even though it would take me about 10 minutes to drive home, and I'd be late to meet up with Jim, I decided that I should attend to the intuition. After all, if somehow our house burned down after getting a mental message that I'd left the burner on, that would be a heck of a lot worse than being twenty minutes late for coffee with a friend.
When I walked into the kitchen I was unsurprised to find that... I'd turned the burner off. And also taken the pan off of the burner. Which is what I always do after making a pancake.
So intuitions can be wrong, even when they seem oh-so-right.
Now, I realize this isn't earthshaking news. Naturally not everything that seems absolutely correct to us actually is. But my experience still surprised me, because the feeling that I'd left the burner on came with such suddenness, and with a strong sense of truth.
A seeming truth is just that, though, seeming, until it is verified. This applies both to mundane stuff like whether a stove burner has been left on, and to divine stuff like whether God, or the Universe, is sending a message to us. As the saying goes, trust, but verify.