In the long-ago-far-away days of my childhood—“before the earth’s crust hardened” some might say—I loved My Weekly Reader, a newspaper-like tabloid written especially for elementary school students. Newspapers were highly prized in our family; a picture burned into the memory is my dad sitting in his chair each evening after supper reading The Detroit News. Not a page was skipped and the comics (the “funnies”) were as important as op-ed articles.
My Weekly Reader featured timely news articles from a child’s angle plus “Uncle Ben” letters describing new inventions and discoveries. I seem to remember an activities page that often included my favorite: follow-the-dots pictures. If you looked carefully before putting pencil—always a yellow No. 2—to the numbers, the eye could almost discern the finished product. But it was in going from 1 to 2 to, 36 or 53 or—the challenging 103!—that a feeling of satisfied completion settled over this student.
For some reason I thought of following, or connecting, the dots as I contemplated what it’s like to listen for and then follow God’s leading. Rarely do we see the full picture, the completed plan, when he whispers one or two steps that he asks us to take. In fact, often what he asks seems insignificant. Even more often, I hesitate to take the step because it’s outside my comfort zone: my “pencil” (my abilities, skills, desires) is dull, insufficient for the task. Sometimes my one small step of obedience—following 1 to 2 or 15 to 16—seems absolutely unnecessary for the Big Picture. The pencils of others would do a much better job.
While God frequently leads us through his Word, the Bible, I’m finding that almost as often he speaks to me from words in a novel or the newspaper. Other times, as I sit in my Quiet Chair and contemplate the world in which I live, its tragedy, its people with broken dreams, I hear a whisper that sounds strangely like, “Pick up your pencil and follow the dots in my plan.”
This means, of course, that I’m well acquainted with his plan as revealed in holy scripture, that I don’t ignore the hard words found in Hosea and Amos, that I don’t just sink into the psalms of green pastures but walk boldly into deserts of lament. That I consistently re-examine my long-held (and usually comfortable!) political and societal and economic viewpoints. That I bare my heart and ask God to prick and even do open heart surgery when necessary.
I’m hearing whispers from God; I’m seeing a few dots; I’m on the verge of picking up my pencil. Can it be that part of that picture is described in what I reverently speak each Sunday morning: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?
I’ll keep you posted about my following God’s dots. What picture lies before you today? What picture might he be asking you to draw here on earth so that it more closely resembles his heavenly kingdom where he reigns supreme? These are not comfortable questions…