By Jenny Sawyer
From teen column: UpFront - April 6, 2018
Every teen sitting around the table had a story to share. Situations in which a “sixth sense” had guided them to an unexpected outcome, connected them to a key piece of information, even protected them in scary circumstances. All the teens also agreed on something: This “sixth sense” was more than some kind of human intuition. It was so “not of this world” in its clarity and wisdom that they felt it was proof of a divine intelligence—divine Mind, or God—caring for them and loving them in a way that had practical effects in their lives.
Here’s something else they agreed on: They all wanted to know how to cultivate this sense in their lives so they could feel connected to it more regularly. When it came to providing guidance, they said, nothing else they’d encountered was more reliable, more trustworthy, more safe.
The kind of perception we’re talking about—perception that goes beyond what we see or hear, or what seem to be the facts of a situation—might sound like a superpower. How else could you know to not step off a curb because a truck that you couldn’t see was about to come barreling around the corner? And yet, the ability to perceive something beyond the details and limitations of any particular moment isn’t a magical power. In order to understand what this perception is all about, though—including how we can exercise it effectively—it’s helpful to first make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of how we understand the universe.
The ability to perceive something beyond the details and limitations of any particular moment isn’t a magical power.
The teens I was talking with were coming at their experiences from a Christian Science perspective. So the premise they were working from is that we ourselves, and the universe we live in, are actually spiritual. That means the perception we’re talking about isn’t “weird” or “otherworldly.” It’s really just a clearer sense of things—a spiritual sense. Here’s the way the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explains it in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Spiritual sense is a conscious, constant capacity to understand God” (p. 209).
We all have spiritual sense. It’s innate. When we experience things like love, mercy, kindness, and so on, that’s spiritual sense, because we can’t perceive those qualities through the five physical senses. So if we think that we don’t have spiritual sense, or that we have it only from time to time, we don’t need to try to get it, or get more of it; it’s more a matter of knowing what spiritual sense feels like, and then practicing listening for it and to it.
What does spiritual sense feel like? Some of the teens I talked to described it as a nudge you can’t ignore—almost like having your mom or dad tell you to do something. One said that when her spiritual sense is guiding her, she feels peaceful, because it just feels right. Others described it as coming with a feeling of certainty, and even power—like an irresistible force that you know has your back.
In my life, spiritual sense doesn’t have one particular “shape.” It’s come, for me, as a specific message to do something—or not to do it. Sometimes (like in the case of being protected from getting hit by a truck) it feels almost like an invisible hand holding me back. Or, in the case of a job I was once considering applying for, it was like having the wind at my back; I felt propelled forward by a power that I knew wasn’t my own.
One thing that’s been common to all my experiences with spiritual sense, though, is that it has defied lists of pros and cons, self-justification, and logic based on what could be observed through the five senses. If the message you’re hearing doesn’t make sense through human reasoning, but a feeling of peace and safety comes with it, that’s a good indication that spiritual sense is at work—and that makes more sense than anything else. And even though spiritual sense isn’t a “superpower,” listening to it and following where it leads has yielded some amazing outcomes that I could never have predicted or orchestrated on my own.
Although these are all wonderful benefits, the best thing about spiritual sense is that it enables us to be more effective healers. It tips us off to what we need to be praying about, even if what’s happening on the surface points to something very different. And it allows us to see what’s really going on, based on an understanding of God’s supremacy and love, even in the face of something challenging.
Spiritual sense allows us to see what’s really going on, based on an understanding of God’s supremacy and love, even in the face of something challenging.
Maybe you’re not sure if you’ve heard God talk to you, or if you’ve ever had this more spiritual sense of things. That’s OK. You can start today. A good place to begin is by pausing and listening before you do something. Put a question out there. Be open to God’s messages. Be willing to get a more spiritual sense of things instead of just charging forward with your plan. God is always guiding and caring for each one of us. And that doesn’t take a superpower to feel; it’s the gift of grace.