Trusting in Instinct


Instincts. Overall, they serve us well. After all, they are a gift from God. We all have them, and we all use them. Just today, while on a hike, my dog, Tippy, used her instincts when she came nose to nose with a three-foot long black snake. Before I even saw it, she had walked up, sniffed it, and backed away. Her reaction caught my attention. That's when I noticed the snake. He was halfway across the trail. I don't know how I didn't see him before that moment. Nevertheless, she had seen him, made an assessment, and use her instincts to know she'd better leave him alone.

I, too, had the opportunity to use my instincts this morning on the same hike. With the full bloom of spring upon us, the trails are full of spiderwebs. The first part of the hike, it was very cloudy and therefore difficult to see the webs. I crashed through most of them, only becoming aware of them when their sticky threads clung to me. Yuck! Once the sun broke through, I grabbed a stick off the ground and began clearing the path ahead of me. On one occasion, I came face to face with a spider who was busily spinning her web. Her web was at eye level, and hating to destroy a web if I don't have to, I instinctively ducked to go under it and leave it undisturbed. By doing so, I had the privilege of walking face-first into a second web. I had been so focused on the first web that I hadn't seen the second one. My instincts did not serve me very well.

The problem with instincts is that they often cause us to react instead of respond. For example, if you were driving down the road and something darted out in front of you, your instincts would tell you to swerve or to slam on the brakes. Either of these actions, however, could be very dangerous. Swerving could result in you hitting another vehicle or losing control of the car altogether. Slamming on brakes could result in your being rear-ended by another vehicle or hydroplaning if the road is wet. In that situation, your instinct led you to react instead of respond.

What's the difference? Reaction is just doing what seems best without taking anything else into consideration. Responding is taking in the situation and all the factors surrounding it, thenmaking an informed decision or action. In the case of driving, those responses must be quick, but they are still preferable to blind, knee-jerk reactions.

When things go wrong in my life, my natural reaction is to wring my hands in worry and then try to drown my sorrows in chocolate and caffeine. That's a reaction, not a response. A response would be for me to take my problem to the Lord and admit my inability to solve it on my own. In my responsive attitude, I would grab my book, There's a Verse for That, and read what the Bible has to say about worry. (Please excuse the shameless plug.)

While God gave us instincts, I don't believe He wants us to rely on them as much as we do. Instead, I think He wants us to allow Him to lead and guide us. Our instincts can get us into trouble. Relying on God never will.