The Worm

As she walked down the sidewalk one warm sunny afternoon, she noticed a worm. Most of the time the worms by that time of day were dead and shriveled up. But, amazingly, this worm wasn’t. It was still alive and heading away from the nearby edged lawn. But she knew that if it continued on its path, it wouldn’t make it to the other side. Between the hot sidewalk and the hungry birds, it didn’t stand a chance.

So, having compassion for it even though it was just a worm, she carefully nudged it withIMG_20180524_204952323 her foot towards the cooler damp dirt under the grass only inches away. It should have been easy. It was only a few inches and she was way stronger than the worm. But as she touched it, it went crazy. Twisting and turning wildly, it probably thought it was in danger and tried to protect itself. However, instead of the wild movements taking it closer to the dirt, it ended up right back where it started. She nudged it again, and again it wiggled wildly and landed back where it started. This is taking longer than it should, she thought. If only it would just let itself be nudged, it would already be safe in the dirt.

She considered her choices.

Quit scaring the little guy and let it take its chances on the sidewalk.

Or ignore its wiggling and use more force until it gets to the dirt.

Making her choice, she positioned her foot and scooted the crazy wiggling jerking worm all the way to the dirt. As soon as it touched the dirt, she removed her foot and watched it calm down.

There, she thought. You may not understand why you were being forced like this, but it was for your own good. Now you’re safe and can go on about your business.

As she continued her walk, a thought crossed her mind. How many times has she reacted like the worm when God nudged her into a different direction?

Too many.

“God, next time You nudge me, remind me of that little worm. I don’t want to fight You or make it take longer than it needs to be. Help me to trust that You know best.”

Because He does.

It’s in the Practice

Thinking back on all she had learned, she felt frustrated. And a little bit sad.

She knew God loved her.

She knew He was with her every moment.

She knew He was looking out for her and had a purpose for her life.

She knew He was faithful and trustworthy and powerful.

 

So why, with all this knowledge, was she unable to apply it to her day to day life? Why was she so ready to doubt? Why was just trusting Him so hard?

 

“Lord,” she prayed. “Tell me how to transform my head knowledge into heart knowledge. How do I trust You?”

“By doing what I say. By trying and falling and trying again.”IMG_20180423_204508177_TOP

“That doesn’t sound fun.”

“It’s like learning to walk. You will learn slowly. And sometimes it’s painful. But you have to do it. It won’t happen automatically.”

“Why can’t it?”

“Because I didn’t design you that way. If growth came automatically, it wouldn’t mean much.”

“I guess that’s true. Some of the things I value the most are the things I worked hardest at. At it would be easy to take faith for granted if we never had to think about it.”

“Exactly. And every step you take towards deeper faith pleases your Father greatly.”

“Well, I do want to please Him in everything I do. I guess growing faith fits right in. OK. So how do I take these steps?”

“Put into practice what you read and…”

“All of it? Really? I’ve read so many conflicting ideas and suggestions and beliefs.”

“Listen for Me when you read. You’ll know then what to put into practice.”

“I think I do recognize You sometimes as I read. It’s like my heart does a flip or sometimes grows warm. Or sometimes the words jump off the page at me.”

“Yes, different ways, to keep you on your toes.”

“Is that it?”

“No, You must also put into practice all that I say to you. And yes, all!”

“Even the hard things? And the scary things?”

“You don’t need to fear. I won’t tell you to do anything that you’re not ready to do.”

“What if I make a mistake in hearing from You? What if I think You said to do something, but I heard wrong?”

“That will happen at times. Stay humble, come to me, and I’ll take care of you. I’ll either cover for you or I’ll show you how to fix it.”

“But if I’m going to be wrong sometimes, how can I trust enough to act on it?”

“Don’t doubt but believe. As you act, as you practice taking these steps, you will get better and your faith will grow stronger. ”

“And You will be with me?”

“Every step of the way. I will not let you down.”

She thought about what He said. Although she wasn’t thrilled about the falls she would make over time, she was always thrilled when He spoke to her. And this time was no exception. “Thank You, Lord, for speaking to me and for Your amazing promises!  I will practice as You say. And I look forward to the day when my trust in You is no longer just in my head, but has truly taken up residence in my heart!”

Trust Me

After her walk in the rain, she got in her car to head home. Home was about an hour away, through mostly uninhabited areas. There was the one small town between where she was and where she was going, but it was too small for even a traffic light. So she thought it would be an easy drive, especially in the early pre-dawn hours. She prayed like she usually did before making the drive, only this time her prayer was not about getting her safely home without delays or problems. It was that He would get her home according to His will. Why did she change her prayer, she wondered. That was strange.  But she just shrugged and drove out of the parking lot.

Thirty minutes later, as she entered that very small town, her car began to overheat. She watched with growing panic as the needle on the temperature gauge climbed steadily towards the HOT section.

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She was still almost 30 minutes from home. No way would she be able to make it. As she slowed down and studied the few buildings she was passing, all closed up and dark, she began complaining.

“Why can’t this have happened after I got home?  There are people there who can help me. I don’t know anyone in this town. Besides, they’re all sleeping anyway. So what am I going to do?  I don’t even know where to get water.  This is just my luck! If something is going to go wrong, it sure will. Look at that gauge! I can’t keep driving, or the radiator might explode or something. Where should I stop? Man, I’m so tired! Why did I have to go walking in the rain? If I had come straight home, the gas station would have still been open…”  On and on she went, getting more worried by the minute.

Finally she turned to God.

“Why are you letting this happen, Lord?” she demanded. “Aren’t You supposed to be taking care of me?”

In her spirit she heard Him clearly. “What did you ask me before you started driving?”

She thought for a moment, then remembered.  ‘Get me home according to Your will.’

“Yeah, but I didn’t mean this!”

“Trust Me.”

Trust Him? He wasn’t the one in a overheating car in the middle of the night, without even a flashlight. Or was He?

“OK. Where do I stop?”

Just then she saw lights ahead of her. As she got nearer, she saw that it was a small restaurant. Could it actually be open? As she looked through the large glass windows, she could see a waitress serving a man. So she pulled into the parking lot and went inside. Despite, or maybe because of, her appearance – a young girl, soaking wet and all alone – the waitress and man were happy to help her. After a small mishap with the radiator cap, the man managed to refill the radiator with the water the waitress brought him. And the car was ready to make the last leg of the trip home.

Back on the road, she thought about what had just happened. And was thankful that that man just happened to be in that restaurant just as she was passing it. The restaurant could have been empty, considering time of day it was.  Coincidence? She shook her head. Jesus had told her to trust Him. And He was right. She learned that even if things go wrong, He can be trusted to take care of her.

Hmmm… maybe He was behind her changing her prayer in order to provide her with this experience in trusting Him. That would explain a lot. He was sneaky that way sometimes.

“You are amazing,” she told Him. ‘But next time, can we just wait until I get home?”

Mark 13:11  What Should I Say?

“I can’t do this.”

“Yes you can.”

“I don’t want to do this.”

“I know.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I am with you.”

She remembered what Jesus had told His followers in Mark 13:11: “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

But did that assurance apply to her in this circumstance? She was not the one on trial. And this certainly had nothing to do with her faith. She was here because of a custody battle over one of her students.

She didn’t know much about the family. The only time she saw them was when one or the other dropped off their son. They were both friendly in different ways and the child was a delight. She had no idea there were problems until one day when the mom had come in her classroom with a large bruise on her face. Tears streaming down her face, the mom had accused her husband of beating her and said she was going to divorce him. The mom had been concerned how it would affect her son and asked to be alerted to any changes in his behavior.

A week later she was served with a subpoena. And here she sat, waiting to be called before the judge to… say what? She didn’t know anything!

She had no idea what to expect and was terrified that she would be asked who she thought would make the better parent. How could she choose? Because she had seen the bruise on the mom’s face, she was siding more with the mom, and it had been the mom’s lawyer who had subpoenaed her  – but what if the story she had been told was not the whole truth? What if the mom was crazy and blaming her husband for something he didn’t do? After all, she hadn’t been there. And she had heard enough stories over the years to know things are not always what they seem. She was scared she would say the wrong thing and the cause the boy to go to the wrong parent.

“God, help me,” she pleaded over and over again. “Don ‘t let them ask me that question.”

“Don’t worry,” the mom’s lawyer had said. “The judge never allows that question. He knows teachers only have limited information.”

“God, help me,” she pleaded again, too nervous to feel His presence, or even to trust that He heard her.

“I am here. You will be fine.”

Finally it was her turn. Facing the judge, the mom, the dad, and two lawyers was nerve racking just in itself. But then the lawyers started firing their questions until her mind was swimming. She got confused more than once and had to ask the dad’s lawyer to slow down. When she didn’t think she could handle any more questions, the dad’s lawyer asked her one more. “Who do you think would make the better parent?” She stared at him, then at the judge. Before she could say anything, the mom’s lawyer objected. He told the judge she wasn’t qualified to answer that because of her limited contact with the family.

The judge turned to look at her and said, “In my experience, teachers are pretty good at making intuitive judgments about their students’ families. I’ll allow the question.”

There it was. THE question. What could she say? She took a deep breath, then told the judge her impressions as the parents had taken turns dropping off their son in the mornings. “I don’t know who would make the better parent,” she said. “But because the mom always talked about her son, and the dad always talked about himself, I would have to choose the mom.”

All the way home, she kicked herself, remembering what she could of the interview, and realizing she could have done a better job. If only that lawyer hadn’t kept confusing her!

The next morning, when the mom arrived with her son, she hung her head and apologized to the mom. “I’m so sorry if I messed anything up.”

The mom shook her head. “No, you don’t understand. Your answers were perfect!” She handed a pencil to her. “Thank you so much!”

Atop the blue pencil was a large rubber eraser, shaped like a sun, with the words “God’s Love Shines On You.’

 

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And she knew that God has sent that pencil to her. It was like getting a hug from Him, assurance that she had done a good job regardless of her fears. Not that she believed for a minute that her answers were all that wise in and of themselves – but the Holy Spirit had guided her in what to say, and God had used it for His purpose, standing behind her and filling her words with His power and light. And that’s what everyone else had heard. Just like He had promised in Mark 13:11.

What an amazing, faithful God!