It’s that time of year again when students at every level are purchasing books and supplies that they need to begin new classes and new courses. Obviously, the number of possible books and supplies can seem endless, but to be prepared for the days ahead each student will need the right books and supplies for this particular season.
I recall this season well as both a mom and a former teacher. It’s a bit like a “rite of passage” as the summer nears its end, but for many of us the love of books we may have developed years ago lingers on. And I confess that I am one of those. If I buy a book, I am always reluctant to ever throw it away so usually I look for a new “home” for it with someone else who may need or enjoy it.
My life has taken many turns and at each one I accumulated a “library” of sorts. When I left teaching, I had stacks of books and materials I knew I would not need or use again. They had been my “tools” of the trade and served me well. There were assessments I found helpful, posters and borders for classroom bulletin boards, and a great many other things. Very few needed to be thrown out because I searched out other new teachers who could benefit from the “tools” and save themselves money in the bargain. (Most teachers spend a lot of money setting up their own classroom beyond what the school may be able to supply.) But I took with me a wealth of experience I had gained in teaching my special education students and relating with their parents and other teachers.
My new turn from teaching to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and Independent Marriage and Family Therapist required new and different “tools” for my workplace. Little-by-little I began to acquire a new “library” to help equip me with what I needed. It didn’t take long until the bookshelves in my office were filled to overflowing and bookshelves at home were filling up as well. The result was choosing the very best of these for my office where they would be readily available at a moment’s notice. As a result, those who came to my office and know me well would chuckle as they would tell you their memory of times in my office as I was sitting listening to them. I would turn in my chair and reach for a particular book and a particular spot in the book to share something with them that was exactly the area we had been focusing on. They were often puzzled at how I could do that so easily. Little wonder my difficulty with deciding what to do with the large number of books and resources on those office shelves when I retired 7 years ago. (Our bookshelves at home were already full…my husband reads many as well.)
For me there was no real mystery about what my clients saw me do. I think I have a relationship with most of the books I read (some more than others) and the most significant ones will have places underlined and highlighted or marked with post-it flags to alert me to the exact places I want to remember. Some of those are ones that first ministered to me. Over the course of my careers and life, the Lord has been helping me prepare for each day and season with the things He knew I would need.
He knew the books that would help equip and shape me, the conferences where notes and resource lists would help me. He also knew that when my children were young and I was enjoying staying at home full-time that there was more time to immerse myself in the Bible and what that would do to shape my beliefs, values, confidence, courage, and understanding. When our children went off to school, you could often have found me sitting in my favorite chair reading for big chunks of time. To all of these, the Lord added my experiences as well as those of others who intersected my life along the way. He wasted nothing and taught me the value of not wasting them either.
Those things and that knowledge was what brought a smile to my face as I was reading the Gospel of Matthew in The Message rendering and came to this verse where Jesus is speaking to his disciples:
“He said, “Then you see how every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.”Mt. 13:52 (MSG)
You never really know how what you are reading, watching, listening to, or thinking about will be something the Lord tucks away for one day in the future. You may not even recall that you have it tucked away, but suddenly He can and will often bring it to mind as something for you or someone else at just the right time. You don’t need to be a teacher, counselor, ministry leader, or writer. The Lord delights in using each one of us in some of the most unexpected places and with people we may not even have met until that moment. I love how the writer of Proverbs reminds us of that idea:
“The right word at the right time
is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
And a wise friend’s timely reprimand
is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” Proverbs 25:11-13 (MSG)
The Lord wants us to be equipped for what He calls us to be and do, those He wants us to connect with and those He will allow to intersect with us. But the great news is that He is in the business of doing it before we even realize or recognize that He has done it. He is really that GOOD!
You cannot imagine perhaps how whatever is happening in your life today might have use for Him or how what you are reading, watching, or listening to could be a benefit at some future point. But I can tell you from my own lived experience that it is just like Him. I am guessing the boy who showed up on the hillside to listen to Jesus preach and had a small lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fish would be the first to jump up and agree!