I Gotta Feeling
I attended a lecture once about teaching children to follow their intuition. We don’t do that a lot. Think about the last time you just “had a feeling” about something. I once drove to Arizona for the holidays and the trip there was a disaster. The car broke down in Indio. I was stuck there for hours. This is not unlike being in purgatory. You know, the funny thing about that ill-fated trip to Arizona was that I had a funny feeling something was going to go wrong on the way. From time to time in my life I have had those feelings. I’m sure all of you have. You get this funny feeling that something just isn’t right, or something is. That’s how I ended up with such a wonderful wife. I just knew it was right.
The first time it happened I was a boy of nine or ten years. My parents had to do the laundry at the Laundromat. Since we all know how fun and exciting those places are, they would generally drop me off at the park on the way to play and then pick me up after they were finished. I know that sounds kind of nuts today, but back then things were safer. At least they thought they were. My friend, Phillip Graper, was staying with us at the time. In fact, on this particular day, I didn’t want to go to the park and told my mom so. She asked me why, but I didn’t know what to tell her. I just didn’t want to go. Since I had no good reason not to go to the park, my parents dropped us off at the park and went on their merry laundry way.
Not an hour after they left, a bunch of big kids came up to us and took our toys and threatened to beat us up if we said anything. Well, of course we said something when my folks came to get us, but there was nothing we could do. We didn’t know who those kids were or where they lived, so we were just out some toys. My mom decided she would listen to me after that, but it never happened again while I was living at home.
Another time there was a drawing at work back when I worked at Bank of America for a FM radio. It was actually a raffle to raise money for the social club (to buy flowers for people and greeting cards for birthdays and other such not). At the very last moment before the drawing, something told me to buy a ticket, so I did. And I won. An FM radio. Big deal. It’s a shame that never happens to me before buying a lottery ticket.
Some years ago, my wife and I were to visit her brother and his family in Phoenix for Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had a bad feeling about driving to Arizona. When the day to leave arrived, we set out. Then, while we were on the road about an hour out, we got a call from her brother asking us if we could pick up his daughter at the airport in Los Angeles and bring her along with us. So we turned ourselves around and went back to LA and collected her. Back on the way to Arizona, the radiator hose burst and we got stuck in Indio for a few hours while it was repaired on Christmas Eve at the only service station still open for a ridiculous price.
I think it’s important to listen to those gut feelings. Of course, I don’t know what I would have done about the Arizona trip. What would Becky have said if I had told her that I had a funny feeling about the trip and that perhaps we shouldn’t go? And besides, that radiator hose would have burst at some point. And without us, her niece would never have made it home for Christmas. (read Arizona Highways for the full story)
God seems to tell some folks His/Her plans for humanity and others when to enter a raffle for an FM radio. Oh well, I guess we can’t all be prophets. But then, you wonder, how many times do we miss those little feelings because we don’t give them any credence? Good thing Joseph, the father of Jesus, listened to his feelings or there wouldn’t have been any savior of the world. According to Matthew, it wasn’t long after the birth of Jesus that the whole family had to hightail it out of town.
“Now after those wise guys left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Joseph! Get your sorry ass up and take this child and his mamma to Egypt and stay there until I tell you. Harrod is royally pissed about this whole future king thing and he means to whack the kid.” So Joseph took Jesus and Mary that very night and got themselves hence to the land of the Pyramids. And they stayed there until Harrod died so that the prophecy might come true, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” After Harrod died, an angel came to Joseph in another dream and said, “Get your ass up now and take Mary and the kid back to Israel because those guys that wanted to kill him are dead.”
So Joseph got Mary and Jesus and schlepped everybody back to Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his old man Herod, he decided to head off for Galilee. So he took them off to Nazareth to live there so that the words of the prophet would be true, “He shall be called a Nazorean.” (Matthew 2: 13-23, Big Daddy Translation)
It is quite logical to assume here that the author of Matthew was just taking the story of Moses, a very popular guy to the Jewish community, and sort of transforming it for Jesus. If you remember from The Prince of Egypt or The Ten Commandments starring Charleton Heston, Pharoh had also ordered the murder of all the first born of the Hebrews to avoid that whole threat to his kinghood. This story also mirrors the story of the Israelites, exiled in Egypt and released through the efforts of Moses (with a powerful assist from the all mighty). Jesus is a powerful symbol of the children of Israel (not to be confused with the current government of Israel). He stands for the people. He was exiled to Egypt and he eventually will sacrifice himself for the sins of his people. So, in a way, the story of Christ is the story of the children of Abraham…and the story of humankind.
The first prophetic reference is to the Book of Hosea (11:1). Of course, Hosea is referring here to the nation of Israel and the Hebrews, not necessarily to the Messiah. The other reference, that the Messiah would be a “Nazorean”, is a mystery. There is no reference to Nazareth in any of the writings of the Old Testament. It is possible, according to some scholars, that the author of Matthew is making a reference to the Book of Isaiah in which the word “neser”, or bud, refers to the Davidic King, the Messiah. Jesus is seen as a bud on the branch of David. Or, it may also refer to a reference to Judges, wherein Samson, the scourge of Israel’s enemies, is called one who is consecrated, or a “nazir”. Or it could mean that there is a book the existence of which is still unknown. Or it could mean that Matthew was talking out his ass. It doesn’t really matter. The author of Matthew was primarily writing to the Jews. He was trying to convince them that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.
But for us, a more important lesson from this story, whether it happened or not, is to listen to those little inclinations we have that tell us what to do and what not to do. It’s really an amazing neurological construct, that part of our brain that gives us advice. There is one part of the brain, the most reptilian part, that sees a situation, another part that tells us what to do about it, and yet another that tells us whether or not our plan is a good idea. Most of us listen to the first two parts of our brain. But we don’t always listen to the third. Adolescents have not yet physically developed that third part of the brain which is why they do some of the stupid things they do. But once you’re past about 16 years old, you have.
I know every day there are things my whole being seems to tell me to do. Most of the time, I listen. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes those feelings don’t always feel very practical. Sometimes it’s not a good idea to club the guy over the head for cutting in front of me at the checkout line. Thank God for that third part of my brain that keeps me from doing stupid shit when I bother to listen to it. It must have been weird for Joseph, though. How would you like to have a dream and in that dream a fucking angel tells you to up and take your whole family somewhere far away? What would your spouse say? What did Mary say? “Joseph, are you out of your fucking mind?”
But they went. Sometimes you have to listen to that little voice. How do you know when to listen to that voice or not? I guess you just know. I just knew with my wife. I knew she was the one. I knew back when I was a little kid about that park. I knew I was going to win the raffle. And I knew that the trip to Arizona was going to be a trial. Now maybe if an angel of the Lord appeared to me in a dream and said not to go to Arizona, I might have listened. But maybe that’s what that little voice is, just an angel of the Lord.
There are some churches that say that the age of miracles is over and that God only talks to us through the bible. It seems to me that those churches suffer from a lack of faith. If the things Jesus said were true two thousand years ago, then they ought to be true today, or else they are not much good. It could be that the miracles in the bible are a tad over exaggerated, or not. It could also be that we don’t see the miracles that happen around us all the time. When Elijah was in a cave waiting on the word of the Lord:
Then the LORD said, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.” (guess where the Lord was)
It’s hard to hear a tiny whispering sound. You have to be very quiet. Maybe that’s why Joseph’s messages always came while he was dreaming. But I’ll tell you one thing: you don’t hear a tiny whispering sound if you’re not paying attention. It’s just too easy to miss. We are all of us asking for just some kind of sign as to what we should be doing with our lives. Maybe there are signs all around us that we don’t notice. Some of them say, “HOMELESS AND HUNGRY. PLEASE HELP”