Friday, May 21, 2010

Higher Learning

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16.12-13)

Not Ready to Be Taught

My father never really had time or means for the hobby he loved most, restoring cars. Get him going, and he can wax rhapsodic about a ’53 Chevy he once owned or a ‘58 Plymouth he whimsically bought because it had a push-button transmission. Cars fed Dad’s nostalgia much like music feeds mine. When he could, he’d shell out a few hundred bucks for a wheezing relic and gently bring it back to life. Then he’d give it to a needy family or student. He was wise enough to buy his jalopies in early spring, when the weather warmed up sufficiently to park the family car curbside and his latest treasure could rest in the garage. As summer turned to fall, however, my mother got antsy for him to finish his pet project so there would be a dry, warm place to house the car she drove.

One September Saturday, he told me to come out to the garage so he could teach me how to change a flat tire and patch the inner tube on an old car due to leave the garage. I was 14. “I don’t need to know that,” I said, returning to whatever book lay open on my bed. “Of course you do,” Dad said. “Not if I make enough money to hire someone to do it,” I answered. He insisted—and to this day I regret how my lack of enthusiasm killed his joy. Finally, he sent me back to the house. But he warned me, “One day you’ll wish you knew. I don’t care how much money you’ve got.” Flash forward 15 years. I’m on the inside shoulder of Chicago’s Kennedy Expressway, trying to figure out how to change a flat while traffic flies by. At last, a patrol car pulls up. The officer asks if I need help. I tell him I’m fine, as I try to loosen the tire’s lug bolts. “You’re doing it backwards,” he says. “Didn’t anybody teach you ‘lefty-loosey, righty-tighty’?” Totally humiliated, I confess my dad wanted to, but I wasn’t ready to be taught. The officer tells me to step aside so he can show me how it works.

A Pentecostal Experience

I’ve not written this week partly because the rigors of 40 Lenten posts, followed by Easter and the Ascension caught up with me. Every evening found me staring at a blank page. When these times come, I’ve learned to seek refreshment in the silence—to open my heart so God’s Word can speak without the demand of deciphering it. Sometimes His Word and voice simply need to be heard. They need to rest in our beings, almost like a subterranean aquifer that eventually amasses enough force to spring up into wells. So, in preparation for Pentecost, I’ve been reading what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit without contemplation, receiving His words without worries about getting them.

I keep going back to John 16.12-13: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” Reading it again yesterday, I was reminded of my father, the officer, and me. I’d participated in a parable about the Spirit! What Dad wanted to teach me was more than I was able to learn at the time. My comprehension was blocked by poor appreciation of the lesson’s value. When my lack of knowledge later emerged, the officer led me to essential understanding. Changing a flat somehow morphed into a Pentecostal experience because, as Jesus describes it, that’s how the Holy Spirit works. It opens our eyes to things we were too naïve, unwilling, or unable to appreciate earlier in our development. It guides our growth.

Constant—and Constantly Necessary

The Spirit holds many offices, Jesus says. It comforts and counsels us, inspires our words, and empowers our witness, to name a few. But these functions operate on an as-needed basis, whereas the Holy Spirit’s presence as our guide is constant—and constantly necessary. As much as we’ll ever grasp of Christ’s teachings and how their truth applies to our daily lives, there will always be more to know. We never stop growing. Our seasoning as believers—the truth we discover as we follow Jesus—only alerts us to how little we’ve learned. That’s why we return over and over to the same texts and lessons, digging out new wisdom in texts we thought we exhausted yet barely tapped. Life experience and observation sharpen our sensibilities to why something that once seemed unimportant is actually vital. Every time we go back to God’s Word or reexamine our lives, the Holy Spirit hovers beside us, steering us in new directions and inspiring fresh perspectives.

When Jesus promises the Spirit will guide us into “all truth,” He isn’t suggesting with the Holy Spirit’s help we’ll ultimately figure everything out. He means the Spirit has every truth at its disposal. When the proper time comes, understanding we can’t presently process will be available. The Holy Spirit leads us to a richer awareness of God’s will and clearer insights into His ways. Our task is remaining eager to learn—maintaining responsiveness to lessons and experiences the Spirit provides. In a foreshadowing of His Spirit, God speaks in Psalm 32.8-9: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” When we’re receptive to the Spirit’s instruction, it directs us back to God. Isn’t that where we want to be? As we enjoy this weekend’s celebrations of Pentecost, we take care not to forget the Holy Spirit is given for our higher learning. Its manifestation in the Upper Room launched a continuous education process for every believer. It leads to truth by instilling in us a bottomless desire to learn. It offers an inexhaustible curriculum taught in a class that will never be dismissed.

The Holy Spirit guides a continuous education process for every believer who’s eager to learn.


Sherry Peyton said...

I think that is one thing that really shakes me, the fact that the bible continues to offer new insight, no matter how many times yuou read the same thing. I guess that you are right. The spirit gives me what I need at that time, saving for later further insight which I am not willing or able to get now.

My sympathies about the flat tire...I know of what you speak. My husband has repeated lefty, loosy, righty, tighty, a time or two to me as well. lol..

Tim said...

When I was younger, Sherry, I often clucked at hearing people say, "The Bible and following Christ never grow old." How many times can one read the same passages over and over and still find new meaning? How long must it take before the journey grows mundane?

Such are the wayward presumptions of youth.

As I've matured--both in age and in my faith--I've come to realize it's not in the Book or the journey. It's in the the Spirit. The freshness we find is at Its direction, which always speaks to where we are now. Like you, I'm shaken (in a good way) by this. The miracle of new life is sustained by constant newness through the Spirit.

This is an especially fine for folks like you and I who sometimes need a time or two to learn our "lefty, loosy, righty, tighty" lessons!

Have a most blessed Pentecost, dear sister,

PS: Hope you caught my explanation of how this week has gone and understand that's why I've not got by your place. I look forward to catching what I missed this weekend.