by Rev. Tim Bounds
My sister was recently telling me about my brother and a treasured family friend cutting down a rogue tree in the yard where I grew up. The only tool available to do the job was an antique 2-man cross cut saw.
Duane, my brother, had some experience with the saw. On the other hand, Sara, the family friend, had never seen this kind of saw in use. Still, it looked simple enough. One person on each end; push and pull the saw through the wood until it’s cut through.
In reality, the design of the saw demands a slightly but critically different technique. See, the teeth of the saw are strategically designed to both cut material and remove the accumulated material, cleaning out the kerf. Plus, the blade itself is very flexible. Pushing the saw consistently resulted in the teeth binding, the saw bending, and the cut stalling. Progress was awkward and tedious, and Sara was growing frustrated.
As it turns out, the saw only works effectively if each person, on their respective end, only pulls on the saw So, Duane was repeating to Sara, as they sawed, “Neither one of us should ever be pushing.”
Sara went home that evening with that mantra ringing in her head. “Neither one of us should ever be pushing.” It seemed to apply to many aspects of life. As a mom and a wife, as a neighbor and Christian, she would remember that frequently going forward. All from cutting down a tree. Sometimes, we find lessons in the unlikeliest of places and teachers well outside of classrooms.
Activity: My Teacher
On a piece of paper (yeah, an actual piece of paper), take a moment and reflect on a lesson you learned from an unlikely teacher by answering the prompts below:
My favorite teacher…
The subject they taught…
Aside from their specific subject, what lesson(s) did I learn from them…
What did my teacher say/do to help me learn that important lesson…
For a moment, pray for that teacher, thanking God for their work.
My French teacher taught me a great deal about English. I learned a lot about safe driving from flying airplanes. Dedicated sports fans have taught me a lot about what it means to worship.
God’s mysterious ways include teachers who often don’t even realize they are teaching at the time of the lesson. They also involve learning from people from people and situations you’d least expect to learn from.
Imagine the confusion that Jesus’ disciples must have felt when they sat down for supper and their master took off his fancy robe to don a servant’s towel. Imagine their utter embarrassment when he began to wash their feet, soiled from travel and bustling life in a busy city. There was a lesson in it. As you read the passage from John 13, try to put yourself in the bare feet of the disciples and imagine how you might react to such a thing.
3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’
As you conclude this devotional time, let the words of William Cooper’s hymn guide your mind to a space of prayer.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
Conclude this time with a prayer to God, who gives us wisdom and teachers.
Prayer: God, my Teacher, give me eyes to see and ears to hear the blessing of wise people you have put in my life that point me to your better way. Amen.