Electrically Abiding

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14:23

When I was younger, I worked in an electrical transformer plant for several years. I was spurred to recall my time in that facility last night while attending our Pastor’s class on the promises available to new believers, and the vivid recollection was brought to the forefront of my memory by the Holy Spirit—possibly to prove a valid point to someone who thought he held all the requisite answers to live a so-called Spirit-filled life. Turns out I’ve missed the mark; and have done so for quite a long time. That the Spirit moved upon me in a class set aside for new believers is further proof that things work differently in the Kingdom of G_d, and a reminder to never take the guidance of His Spirit for granted.

In that transformer plant was an elderly black woman; getting close to the age of retirement and a veteran of building transformers for going nigh on thirty-five years. She had started the job when the plant was newly built in the late 1960’s; the era of Dylan and the Beatles—of Vietnam and Apollo. During her many years in the plant she had worked on every stage of transformer manufacturing, from winding coils and baking cores, throughout the tedious process of assembly and sub-assembly, and was finally spending the last few years of her career in the areas of inspection and quality control. If you asked her a question about how the transformer followed the assembly line from bare metal to finished product, she could tell you in intricate detail each and every step of the process down to which tap went to which paddock, or which size bolt or fastener was used in which place on every hinge. She was a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge on all things transformer related, and an asset to her employers in every sense of the word.

One fine day, the wise men on the management team decided that in order to increase quality and performance, it would be a good idea to begin classes every week or so on transformers and how they function once they were installed out in the field. Looking back today, I would have bet the farm the elderly lady could have taught the class with her abounding knowledge gained via her many years in the facility. Flash-forward to the beginning class, however, and this is where the Holy Spirit brought the earlier golden nugget to my attention. In the classroom on that very first afternoon, we were inundated with technical jargon and proficient expoundment on Ohm’s electrical laws and Kirchhoff’s theories on coils for an educationally-packed hour or so. Finally, the time came for questions from the class. With a puzzled look on her face, speaking in a low tone she incredulously asked, “You mean electricity goes into these things?”

Although her knowledge was sound, her experience more so than anyone else’s employed in that plant; she had never made the connection in her mind of what the primary purpose of a transformer was actually all about.

But don’t be too hard on her, and I for one will definitely not stand in judgment, because people that live in glass houses should not be the first to throw misguided stones at each other. You see, I’ve found myself (with a still, small voice to remind me) in the same predicament in Spiritual matters. I study the Bible, but a little deeper than most folks. I look for those things on the highways and byways of the less travelled references. I know the intricacies of the Sons of G_d in Genesis 6, the reasoning behind the story of Abigail in the saga of David, the truth of the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man, among many other things one could conceivably study in the Word of G_d. I’ve dissected the first three chapters of Romans, and I’ve stood dumbfounded by John’s proclamations both in his gospel and in his letters. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of the divine manuscripts encasing our King James Version, I’ve studied the lion’s share of it with serious aplomb and (bragging a bit) not a little added skill thrown in to the mix. (KJV is not the only translation either—I’ve lately found myself using the ancient Douay-Rheims version to enhance my study.)

But somewhere along the way I’ve missed something. Although secure in my salvation, and comfortably sincere in my knowledge of the Truth as recorded in G_d’s Word, I seem to have overlooked the electricity that flows through each and every one of the lines of black and red recorded therein. It’s not enough to know the words and hide them away in your memory for random access as the situation calls for it. Instead, I am admonished to ‘keep’ the words by Jesus Himself in the original passage I began this column with. I have not always done that, I’ll confess—at least not in the manner that would justify exactly what Jesus was talking about here. Many times I’ve been quick to judge, and even faster to condemn. I’ve stretched the truth on more than one occasion. (OK, I’ve been known to flat out destroy the truth from time to time.) I’ve been less than careful when it comes to loving others, or at least accepting them—not just in my head but with my heart. Often times I’ve been the conductor of a sounding brass band, as Paul would have stated it, with more than a few tinkling cymbals thrown in for good measure. Although I’ve meticulously studied the Word, I have not always lived the Word.

It’s not just the admonishment to keep His Word that has been inspired in me by this verse, either. The charge from Jesus comes with a promise: A promise that both He and the Father will abide in me should I do so.

In the meantime, the breakers are closed, the circuits are energized, and the electricity is flowing. It’s what His design has been meant to be all along—from the ‘in the beginning’ of Genesis to the final verses of Revelation.