Individually Adrift; Instinctually Aware

As a species, there are often few things upon which we can all agree.  Whether it’s how to run a nation or what we want for dinner, there can be division, derision, a lack of decision.  Yet, there must be certain ideas and aspects on life upon which we can come to a consensus, things that we might not even be aware of that are true for all people.

Shortly after the recent tumultuous election, political commentator Stephen Colbert made a rousing speech on television in an attempt to unite us all in a time of division.  Always relying on humor, he developed a consensus list that lifted spirits, making everyone feel stronger as a group.  His list included such universally agreed upon wisdom like how when we all agree on something, we all shout “yes”, that it’s nice to get a card in the mail once in a while, how none of us think Kit Kats should be eaten like other candy bars but in segments only, and that buying Cool Whip isn’t about the taste but instead about the free Tupperware.

Similarly, there are certain things that all babies know instinctively when they are born.  For example, babies instinctively know to grasp onto a finger when it is placed in their hand and hold onto it with amazing strength.  Righting reflexes are the idea that should a baby be placed face down, it will know to turn its head to the side, thus ensuring it can breathe properly.  They also have mouthing reflexes, where when their cheek is stroked, they turn towards it with an open mouth, suggesting that babies “know” how to breastfeed when they are born.  The evidence is that we are all born preprogrammed with the knowledge of certain instinctual ideas and practices.

Yet, do we have an instinct for God?  Few of us in the world would agree on what that God is like or even that there is a God at all, so it would seem hard to believe.  However, is it possible that like babies, we are also born with the idea that there is a being greater than ourselves that exists to love and take care of us?  The Bible would argue that we do know this fact, and that in times of great difficulty and stress, we instinctively know to call on God for help.

When God calls upon Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach against it, he flees God’s command out of pride for the people of Nineveh, as he viewed them as his enemy.  He ends up in Tarshish, a city known for its pagan beliefs and lack of Christian influence, and boards a ship to continue fleeing from God.  As God had plans for Jonah, He pursued him across the ocean.  Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.” (1. 4-5a).  Despite the sailors most likely being pagan in their beliefs, each defaulted to their instinctual belief that there is a creator greater than themselves who could save them from this storm.  When the world became primal, their primal instincts kicked in, and they called out to their creator for help, showing that despite what we may protest and argue, deep down every man and woman knows that there is a God who can save us.

Instincts exist for the sake of survival.  Whether a baby or an adult, our instincts are there to protect and save us.   How comforting to know that we are instilled with instincts that bring us closer to God, the one who created and cares for us.  Knowing that our instinct to call out to God is embedded in our genetic code before we are even born truly reveals to us how much God loves us and wants us to rely on Him for all things.  Amen.

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