Tis the season to harvest sugar peas. The warm weather has brought a bumper crop to my small garden. My Labrador faithfully follows me as I pick them. She knows that for every handful I drop into the bucket, I will drop at least one pod into her mouth.
One morning, while peering at me through the pea wire, my dog discovered a large juicy pod hanging at eye level. I noticed her staring at it. Now Adi has been watching me pick sugar peas her entire life. She is well acquainted with the shape and smell of a ripe sugar pea and knows they are pulled off a vine. So, I challenged her to try picking it for herself. “Go ahead girl. You can have it,” I said. She hesitated. “Go ahead,” I encouraged.
I figured the most my Lab would do is continue staring at it in hopes I would pick it for her. To my delight, she sniffed the pod, then gave it a good lick. Satisfied that it was indeed a tasty sugar pea, she angled her head just right and reached out with her front teeth, gingerly nipping the pod off the vine. A “crunch, crunch” followed. I beamed at my pup and patted her on the head. This would be the first of many sugar peas Adi would pick.
Working in the garden gives me time to think, and I found myself reflecting on my pea picking Labrador. She’s proven that she doesn’t need every pea handed to her. She has the tools at her disposal to accomplish the task- a nose, tongue, teeth, and appetite for sugar peas. It made me think of a challenge the Lord gave me some years back- to begin to glean the fruit of Biblical text for myself rather than relying solely on others to hand it to me. The author of Hebrews puts it this way,
“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food”Hebrews 5:12, NLT
With the guidance of the women’s ministry director at my church, I began to collect and learn how to use various reference tools that would help me dig into the Word. These tools include cross references, dictionaries, and commentaries. Although most are books, which is my preferred form of media, I have found some excellent online tools as well. (See post script for a list).
Just as Adi watches me more intently as I pick sugar because she knows I’ll point to a pod and give her permission to glean it for herself, I find that I now pay closer attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as I read the Bible. Often, I sense His nudge to stop and reap a deeper understanding of a particular verse or passage. Before I pull out my reference tools, I prayerfully ask the Lord for wisdom and guidance (Luke 24:45, John 14:26).
I’ll be honest this process takes time and effort. It would be a whole lot easier to let my favorite pastors and writers do all the work and hand-feed me the fruit of their labor. However, the fruit of my own labor deepens my love for the Lord which in turn prompts me to want to share what I learn with others. It also strengthens my foundation in God’s Word. That foundation is reinforced and enriched as I read or listen to the teaching of other laborers.
I close with Solomon’s words and the hope that you too are laboring in the Word and gleaning the fruit of truth it offers.
“My son if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom, and applying your heart to understanding and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”Proverbs 2:1-6
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If you have a favorite book or online reference tool, please take a moment and tell me about it in the comment section.