Photo by Erin E. Photography
I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, raised by Christian parents and regularly attending church. I accepted the faith of my parents and was baptized in middle school. As an adult, I needed to know more. I needed to make my faith my own. I wanted to learn as much as possible about God, Jesus, and the Bible. I had many questions..
Over the years, I’m sure I wore out many pastors with my questions. I read lots of books on Christianity and apologetics and read the Bible nearly every night for over three decades. Over and over I prayed for wisdom and understanding—and for someone to help me deeply study the Bible.
I was diligently seeking God and God sent someone to help me. I had a new job working at a nursing home. One of the residents, an older gentleman, was often in his wheelchair sitting in the hallways reading his Bible. From time to time I would stop to talk with him about the Bible. He was articulate and intelligent and his blue eyes sparkled when he talked about the Scriptures. I can’t remember whose idea it was, but he started a Bible study. I was the only one who came. Every Wednesday evening at the nursing home, I was his only student. He was disappointed that it was just me, but said that I wanted to learn so badly he just had to teach me.
Each session, I sat across from him in his room with the rolling hospital dinner tray table between us, and his well worn New Jerusalem Bible laid open for the teaching, and my NIV Student Bible, taped together on the binding, right beside it. Covering nearly all the white space in his Bible were his own personal notes, as neat as if typewritten and nearly as small. I had never seen anything like it. Each week he prepared a lesson plan of what we were to cover, with Scripture verses on small slips of white paper, handwritten in the same tiny script as in his Bible.
I found out that he attended seminary in the 1940s and 1950s and taught literature at a university, including a study of Psalms—my favorite book of the Bible. What unfolded in the next year during our Bible study was remarkable. He taught me historical perspective and context, drawing Bible maps and timelines. He explained the Hebrew and Greek meaning of biblical words and why that mattered. He related passages in the New Testament back to passages in the Old Testament, revealing new insights. He explained unsettling discrepancies. He used the Socratic method to teach me, asking me many, many questions.
At times it was exhausting, but he forced me to think more deeply than I ever had about the Holy Scriptures. He even had me write a paper based on my answer to the question Jesus asked of His disciples in John 1:38: “What are you seeking?” We completed a study of Mark and then John, but as we began Psalms, he was too sick to continue. Instead he asked me to read to him from the Psalms. I read to him Psalms of God’s love, goodness, and forgiveness, and of praise for God’s creation. When I finished, he could barely talk but his brief points were clear: Notice God. Thank God. Love God.
My friend is gone now but I will always remember the lessons God revealed to me through him—profound lessons and simple ones. I had asked God to send someone to help me learn and understand, someone to help me deeply study the Bible and God responded with an unexpected but incredible answer! I am so grateful for what God taught me through my friend. God loves us. God sees us and knows what we need, when we need it and how we need it delivered. Praise God for his personal way with each of us!
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God and he will give it to you. James 1:5
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13