It was 1998, and I had been feeling stirrings in my gut saying that I was ready to leave my corporate advertising job. My heart felt restless. I had just been offered a management position that I dreamed of and wrote the job proposal for. Yet when I got the offer, the word “yes” would not come out of my mouth.
I cried the whole weekend, wondering why I felt the way I did.
This job was a key part of the path that I’d been groomed for since I was a young child. “You will grow up and be independent and make a living for yourself” was my family’s paradigm. And making a living was understood to mean having a stable, successful career in the business world.
For many years, I had been content in my job. Not only was it glamorous, and lucrative, but it also allowed me to meet and connect with new people, which I loved doing. I genuinely wanted to learn about their life journeys and businesses, and doing so had made me successful in the advertising world.
So why did this wonderful career now feel like it didn’t fit me anymore? And what would I do instead? I was feeling pulled in a new direction, but I didn’t know where that direction might lead.
I was still wondering these things when I went to Costa Rica, on a whitewater rafting trip, in January 2000. During that trip, I was thrown into the rapids and nearly drowned.
Afterward, I felt like I’d been given another shot at life. I knew with certainty that I was ready to move forward and that God was directing me. I also knew that I wanted to dive deeper into life and meaning and purpose, personally and professionally. With my husband’s support, I gave my 30-day notice.
Though I knew leaving my job was the right move I did not know what God was calling me to do next. So, I began to listen deeply, praying and meditating every day. My prayers included asking for help and guidance, and with my meditations, I carved out time and space in which to hear God’s responses. I also opened to any new comments, people, or suggestions that came across my path.
One night, my friend Connie said to me, “Have you ever thought of studying theology and spiritual direction at St Catherine University?”
This idea had never entered my mind before. I knew no one who was in this field. Yet I felt strong energy pulling me to do just what Connie had suggested. It was if a light bulb had come on in my brain or a new lens had opened.
When I received the theology school materials, my body started physically shaking. I knew I was on the right path. Within a few months, I’d applied to St. Catherine University and was accepted.
When I told my parents, my dad yelled and pounded his fist on the kitchen table, demanding to know why I would leave a successful corporate job to study theology. I just smiled and changed the subject. A month later, when I started classes, I met with my parents again. My mother broke down in tears. My father was speechless, but at least this time he did not yell.
Even though I didn’t have my parent’s support, and even though I had no idea where my studies would lead, I knew I was following my heart and gut and where God was calling me.
My gut feelings were confirmed as I sat in my first graduate theology class,
“History of Christian Spirituality” with Professor Ed Sellner. My body shivered with delight. I was at home. Reading and discussing the writings of Christian mystics and saints, I was finally deeply engaged in the spiritual books and ideas that I had longed to read since my teenage years.
“Trusting your gut” doesn’t mean doing something on impulse or acting without conscious thought. It requires listening deeply within and tuning into the present moment, where answers arise and deep wisdom surfaces. Many people don’t take time to stop and listen until they’re faced with their own mortality, the loss of a loved one, or a big life transition or upheaval.
It is a choice to ask for guidance from God, the universe, and to create space for listening and opening. It is a choice to step away from the endless mind chatter and instead be present and feel what our heart and gut are telling us. It is only in the present moment that we are fully alive and can hear the still, small voice of God, the universe, who is leading and guiding each one of us.