by Joyce Cordell
Do you ever have a time when it seems the Lord urges you to do something specific? I went through such a time.
Years ago, I sensed that He placed the word “write” in my mind. Oh, I had written many things – journals, skits, devotions, Bible studies, even a short story published in an anthology, but it seemed this urging of the Spirit held a new direction.
A few weeks later, I would read an article or a version of Scripture, hear a sermon, or see a sign at the bookstore, and that sense of calling came again – write. One day, I drove down the road and looked at the car in front of me. I kid you not, the license plate read, “write” in capital letters. W.R.I.T.E. Wow, Lord, I get the picture!
A couple of months later, I attended a conference for church leaders. When I went to a breakout session, the leader talked about the need to revisit our goals or perhaps fulfill new visions. Then she gave examples of how that played out in the lives of people she knew. Among her examples, one centered on a friend who felt the need to write a book.
In that moment, a warm sensation started in my legs, moved up my body, and rushed into my head. I felt like the two who had talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. After they had eaten with him, one said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us when he talked to us?” I felt like the Lord had taken a branding iron and seared on my heart the word, “Write!”
At that time, I was involved in a Bible Study on the book of Matthew. As I worked through it, I became aware of lesser-known characters. I wanted to stop and ponder, what might be the rest of their stories? My mind churned with ideas.
From time to time, Matthew wrote, “He who has eyes to see, let him see; he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” I found myself meditating on those words each time they came around.
Then, the narrative came to the scene at the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was arrested. Judas planted a kiss, the temple guards drew their swords, and Peter drew his knife. In his flourish, Peter sliced the ear of the servant of the high priest. Through the turmoil, Jesus set aside his own concerns and knelt to heal the man’s ear.
Suddenly, my eyes were opened. It was as though the Spirit said, “This is it. This is who I want you to write about!”
Gradually, I began to see this man as a real person. His two-verse story appeared in all four Gospels. Only Dr. Luke told that Jesus healed the ear and only John revealed his name – Malchus.
I wondered what it would have been like to be under the thumb of Caiaphas the high priest. Perhaps Malchus did more than household duties. Maybe he scouted out the community to bring back any scuttlebutt he may have heard around the city. In other words, possibly he was the “ears” of the marketplace for Caiaphas. What a demanding job for a demanding boss.
I would like to say that I breezed through the writing, but even though I learned much in my research of the culture and other Scripture, I had precious little to go on that was specific to this character, Malchus. I kept asking myself, “Who am I to think I could write such a thing.” The Lord said, “You can’t, but I can.” One quote that spurred me on, put it like this, “The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.”
As II Corinthians 5:7 reminds us, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” It took me seven years to research, write and finally be published. The book’s title. “Ears to Hear,” of course!
In the next years, another lesser-known character began brewing in my mind. I turned to the greatly admired teacher of the law, a Pharisee extraordinaire – Nicodemus. His fellow Pharisees could not stand the likes of Jesus of Nazareth, but despite his piety and expertise of the law, Nicodemus was a true truth-seeker, so much so, that he sought Jesus at night to learn more about him.
In my story, Nicodemus was nursed back to health from an accident on a shepherd’s hillside. The great teacher learned an attitude of humility as the shepherd cared for him in his undignified condition. Thus, this story was born and published. I called it, “A Heart for Truth,” the story of Nicodemus.
To complete the trilogy of lesser-known characters in the Bible, I returned to Matthew, where it all began fourteen years earlier. What was his story. What do you really know about Matthew? He was one of the twelve. Yes, what else? He was a tax collector. Yes. Jesus came to him and said, “Follow me.” And? He hosted a dinner for Jesus and invited the only friends he had, “sinners,” as the religious leaders called them. Yes, but that’s it.
While we hear no words spoken by the character Matthew in the Bible, we can glean other things about him in the Gospel he wrote. He seemed to have some religious training as he wrote primarily to the Jews.
So, the burning question for me, “Why would this good Jewish boy ever become a hated tax collector?” Now that required a good bit of imagination. Once Matthew became a believer in Jesus, I could more easily follow his story by following Jesus’ story.
Do you remember the verse I kept coming across in my study of Matthew long ago? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear. He who as eyes to see, let him see.” The name of this third book became, “Eyes to See.” the story of Matthew.
And now I ask, what’s your story? Have you had an urging of the Holy Spirit? The Lord’s urging has taken me many years to complete. Of course, not all his urgings lead us into a maze of years to accomplish. Sometimes, when the Spirit’s whisper comes from our “being still” moments, he wants you to follow an instant urging. A word, an action, a letter, a phone call. Other times he wants you to wait and watch.
His urging might include a whole new ministry or just that one conversation he’s been wanting you to have with someone.
I’m praying, as I write, that your eyes will be open to see what he has for you and your ears alert to the Spirit’s urging. May you have a heart for the truths he wants to place in your life.
I leave you with the words of David, who sought the heart of God.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:4-7 (NIV)