You have probably had the joy of knowing people who are so full of trust and love that they know how to treasure the little things in life (as opposed to fussy or materialistic people who become obsessed by them). Sometimes it is the crumbs under the table we need to pay attention to; passing thoughts, small print stuff, the deliberate time spent in reconnaissance or holding back to seek the Lord before plunging in, the pennies that make the pounds go further and so on.
Jesus was deeply touched by the Syro-Phoenician woman who sought and pursued Him so fervently with all her heart, recognising that things which others regarded as unimportant – like the crumbs under the table – had their own significance. He honoured both her perseverance and her faith. This is the passage about her:
As soon as she heard about him, a Greek woman born in Syrian Phoenicia. whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at His feet. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. “First let the children eat all they want,” He told her; “it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs!” Then He told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” (Mark 7:25-29 NIV)
Our understanding of many things is fragmentary, and when there are issues that we simply cannot make much sense of for the time being, it is often best just to leave those uncertain things as it were ‘on the side of our plates,’ and come back to them another day. The Lord honours the fact that we are concerned to ponder them, just as He honours our every effort to listen to Him and to follow His leading.
This often happens in the prophetic realm. The Lord gives us a glimpse of something – and maybe a partial fulfilment too – but there are aspects of it and a latter-day fulfilment that may lie further down the road. Back in 2008 we were standing on top of a mountain in the Pyrenees with some friends. That isn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds – we had actually driven up it! The Lord spoke very clearly one word to me there, He said, “Worcester!” This came as a time when we were seeking Him as to where we were to move to. When we were led to consider Worcestershire, I asked Him if that’s was what He had in mind, or whether he had something specific about Worcester itself. To honour what the Lord had said we did look at properties in Worcester, but felt Him leading us instead to Malvern. Six years later a job opened up in Worcester for Rosalind– and that is surely the full and additional fulfilment of the word!
It’s great to ask Him questions about it as we go, and He is often generous in giving us hints and clues to keep us in the loop, but if we try too hard to make sense of things too quickly, we run the risk of letting our imagination run away with us, and end up jumping to wrong or hasty conclusions. We can never grasp the whole breadth of God’s plan, so it is important to pay attention to the fragments we can attend to, and then display patience until the details become clearer. That can sometimes feel as difficult as trying to piece together a jigsaw puzzle without having the picture to guide us, but this is how faith often has to work as God’s plans and our salvation work themselves out – piece by piece.
What is important is to save and store what we believe the Lord is showing us in an easily retrievable place – in our baskets, if you like. Snippets of teaching, snatches of testimony, even quick arrow prayers that He wonderfully deigns to answer; insights that help us to gain a heart of wisdom. These we must note and store away as they come so that we can draw from these springs of living water as and when we need to.
Precious ideas pass through our minds that are just crying out to be gathered up and put to good use. For me as a writer, it is often just a snippet of an insight. It comes so clearly that I think, “Oh, that’s so important, I’ll never forget that” – but if I do nothing about it, I often find within a few minutes – or certainly overnight – that it has vanished into thin air. How much better and easier to gather them at the time and to put them somewhere I can find them again easily. When we gather these God-given ‘fragments’ in this way, at any time, even years later, we can return to set about embedding and polishing them.
When we have no access to pen or paper we have no choice but to commit them to memory. During the many years Richard Wurmbrand spent in solitary confinement, he kept himself sane by preaching sermons to the watching listening angels. By means of a series of acronyms he committed these sermons to memory. The moment he was set free, fourteen long years later, Richard allowed no sleep to his eyes until he had written them out in full. I commend Sermons from Solitary Confinement, and 100 Prison Meditations. [We have shared the amazing story of how God has used these secret sermons in Alone with God.]
The Lord gave a friend of mine a powerful song in the spirit recently for North Korea, but as she had no time to write it down on manuscript paper, she simply made a mental note of the intervals between the first few notes to help her recall the whole. In other words there are ways of “gathering” fragments that may not immediately involve paper and pen.
Sometimes the Lord has plans for us that had nothing to do with pen or paper, but involve making the most of fragments of opportunity. You meet somebody somewhere – in a shop or on a bus for instance – and a really important opportunity opens up to share the love of the Lord with them. It may be just for the moment, but God can speak and do so much more in that moment.
Many years ago I picked up a hitchhiker and gave him a lift down a motorway. I had the opportunity to witness and pray with him, and was able to lead him to the Lord. Something like 20 years later, this man, now passionately on fire for the Lord, happened to be speaking in a church attended by Mike and Sue Harris, friends of ours. He told the group how I had led him to the Lord on that motorway all those years before! We never know what seeds we may be sowing – what matters is that we keep on sowing.
And then there are times when we must gather up our thoughts and our baskets of pieces, and allow the Lord to sift through them with us. There is such value in allowing ourselves regular times of quiet reflection with Him. We discover by trial and experience when and how we do this best – for many people this will come at good to allow Him to press the pause button and see if there is anything He wants to draw to our attention – for example when He has given us a directive that we have not acted on, or when we have said or done that needs putting right. There may well be actions and attitudes that He particularly wants to praise – and others that He needs to pick us up on – as well as insights and understanding He wants to share with us.
Many of these, just like natural seeds, will take time to germinate and mature. The difference between an amateur writer and a professional one does not necessarily lie in the quality of the original inspiration so much as the number of revisions we are prepared to make in order to turn starter seed ideas into something that will be read with real appreciation by others. A teacher or coach highlights particular issues in order to develop the skills of musicians or athletes; far more time is invested behind-the-scenes than any audience will ever be aware of but it all goes to make the final performance so much more convincing. Jesus is the master teacher and He does not skimp on even the smallest part of our training.
May our spirit become ever more alert to these insights – and may we be disciplined enough to make frameworks for reflection that stimulate the to-ing and fro-ing and dialogue between us and You. Help us to gather up his fragments and to hear what You were saying. Come upon us now we pray, Lord Jesus, and work these things out to Your glory.