When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail…

hammeringnailThe first time I heard God speak to me, I was 6 years old. I was sitting in my first grade class, admiring the teacher. I thought she was really pretty, really smart, and I liked her a lot. Suddenly that voice said to me, One day you will be a teacher.

I didn’t know that other people didn’t hear God speak to them like that, I didn’t think it was unusual or strange at all. It wasn’t a common occurrence for me, though. Just that one statement was all he said for a long, long time.

As the years went by God occasionally said other things to me, like Don’t go there, or You should read this. Stuff like that. Just once in a while, nothing spectacular, no big deal. But I tried to pay attention, because I figured God knew what was going on a lot better than I did.

See, all during those years my family attended church, one that stressed the importance of studying the Bible. I admired my Sunday School teacher the same way I had admired my grammar school teacher. I liked her, and because she said knowing the scripture was important, I read and I studied. It was interesting, some of it actually fascinating, and because I enjoyed history of all kinds I enjoyed the Bible too. I just didn’t consider that it might be more than a history book and a rule book.

I wasn’t even born again in those days, at least as I understood that to mean. I had never asked Jesus to come save me, to be my Lord. I just knew that I knew that I knew — Jesus was God. Didn’t everybody know that? I suspect someone was praying for me, because God knew me. He was with me long before I ever knew him.

Then, as the teenage years rolled around, things I knew I should do, I didn’t do. And vice versa. I DID go there, where I shouldn’t go. I started doing things because I wanted to, whether my parents or my Sunday School teacher or the preacher thought they were okay or not. And believe me, I instinctively knew what they would think about some of it. NO-NO’s.

I had actually told God one day that yes, I understood how to be saved, and yes, I wanted to be saved some day, and okay, I’ll accept Jesus as my “saver.” Not really serious about it, I just said it and promptly forgot it. Gradually his voice stopped speaking to me, but by then I didn’t even notice.

Thinking I could run my life just fine all by myself, I dropped out of college and married a man my family didn’t approve of. A man who turned out to be exactly the kind of person they had warned me he was. We had two children, and bit by bit our marriage fell apart.

At age 29 when I finally acknowledged that doing my own thing my own way wasn’t working out too well, I seriously asked Jesus to save me and to manage my life. In other words, to be my Lord.

What happened next was spectacularly sudden, and supernatural.* Everything changed in a flash, and I knew that the Bible was actually, literally true. Not just a history book, but a living Word, filled with the words of God addressed to me personally. Wow! His voice returned, full of laughter and life! I was so glad, so very glad.

Well, before you know it, I was a teacher. I was teaching Sunday School, and a few years later teaching Bible college classes. One day it dawned on me – God’s statement to that 6 year old girl was the literal truth. One day I would be a teacher, and that day is today.

And I have recognized and come to accept that “When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Even when you’re just 6 years old. Some folks know what that means…

Looking back I have realized that throughout my life, everything I’ve ever learned, I have thought of it as a teacher would, in terms of how to tell it to somebody else. How to explain it in ways they could understand, whether it was to my own children, friends, coworkers, stranger, whoever.

Whether meditating, speaking, writing, even emailing, my point of view has always been as a teacher. My focus has always been, How can I help somebody else understand this? Math? English? History? Science? Current events? Politics? Those certainly, but most importantly, Jesus. Father God. Holy Spirit.

It’s been a while since I was 29. I’m still reading, still studying, still finding the Bible interesting and fascinating, but one thing is for sure — it’s way better with the author right there with you. The extraordinary Teacher, Holy Spirit, Explainer-in-Chief, who always puts how best to share this with other people uppermost in our study sessions.

* Also see https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/all-things-became-new/

Holy Spirit, Trail Guide

TrailGuideWho are you, Lord? I asked again recently, recalling other times I’d asked him that.

Trail guide, he answered. The Holy Spirit is your trail guide for the journey you’re taking.

Over the next few days, I thought about that. Now and then I asked him why he used that particular title – I don’t find it in the Bible anywhere, I said. At least, not in those words.

Here’s how our back-and-forth conversation and my meditations went, more or less.

About the trail…

A trail is not a paved road. It doesn’t lead through cities or towns. If you’re taking a trail, it’s because you’re not going through civilized country. It may meander, lead uphill sometimes and downhill sometimes.

A trail is for travel. It makes traveling easier through woods or wilderness. It doesn’t destroy the woods or wilderness, only disturbing them a little. More than a rough path and less than a dirt road, a trail is created by the movement of shod feet, assisted by pulling or cutting away brush that may hinder the going.

A trail is to get somewhere, from point A to point B. It has a purpose. It leads to a definite destination. It may not be the shortest way, but with the trail guide it is the surest way.

About the guide…

He has much experience. He is not an amateur. This work is his lifelong employment. He is well able to teach and train believers to prepare, to travel, and to help others along the way.

The trail guide knows the terrain. He knows the starting and ending points, the length of the trail and the time the journey will take. He is knowledgeable of the seasons, the surroundings, the flora and fauna, and what other travelers you may encounter.

The trail guide applies both facts and wisdom. He plans and prepares ahead of time, gathering appropriate clothing, weapons, tools and supplies. He doesn’t take unnecessary gear. He takes the essentials and knows how to make use of them.

He prepares for unforeseen circumstances with well-designed contingency plans. He is able to protect travelers from sickness or injury, warn against danger, fight off predators, and call for reinforcements if needed. He knows when and where to break the journey with times of rest and replenishment for body, soul and spirit.

After considering all that for a while, I asked another question.

How is the Holy Spirit a trail guide? Normal life is not lived in the wild. Normal people have jobs, routines, families, interests and habit patterns. They live in buildings, drive on paved streets and highways – at least here in America.

You’re only looking at the natural world, the Lord said. Your spirit lives in the supernatural. If you could see with your physical eyes what happens in the spiritual realm, it would make more sense to you. Try looking at the world from my vantage point.

Okay, I will try to do that, I answered. And I have been.

Of course the Holy Spirit is much more than the trail guide, I added to myself. I was thinking of Comforter, teacher, empowerer, the one who reminds us of what Jesus said, and who tells us of things to come. I recalled the scriptures in Genesis where the Holy Spirit was involved in creation of the world.

Yes, the Lord answered my unasked question, but everything he is to you can be wrapped up in this descriptive title – Trail Guide. Think some more about that.

And so I am thinking about it. And about just what sort of trail we’re traveling on these days.

As I meditated on all he described, I recalled how the Holy Spirit guided the apostle Paul in his life. Not just in his missionary work, but in every aspect of his life… the where and when of his birth, his family, Jewish and Roman culture, education as a Pharisee of the Pharisees. His zeal as a persecutor of the church.

The where and when of his encounter with Jesus.

His years of seeming inactivity where zeal had to be refocused, patience instilled and polished. Then his assignment as a church member, evangelist, missionary, pastor. Prisoner.

Not to mention his many travels.

Paul wanted to go places, see people, do things for Jesus. He planned out his own reasonable, logical itinerary. Sometimes his plans weren’t quite right – the Holy Spirit had his own itinerary, his own agenda. He led him to other places, other people, other things to do.

Thinking of all that these last few days, trail guide does seem an appropriate title.

See John 14:26, 16:13; Acts 16:6-10.