Cheryl and I had been dating for a several months when my birthday came around. She very kindly planned a great night for me: dinner, good conversation and a surprise gift. I thought we had agreed that we wouldn’t buy one another presents, but she apparently hadn’t gotten the memo. I walked into my office at the church where I served as youth pastor and saw it sitting in my chair—the Mel Blanc lithograph I had told her about. I was overwhelmed at the generosity of the present which still hangs over my desk.
I love the lithograph not just because of the giver, but because it reminds me of something very important. Without Mel Blanc’s voice, the characters are just drawings—empty shells of their true selves, unable to tell a story sufficiently. Now, you could argue that others can do the voice of the characters, but they aren’t the real voice. And any Looney Tunes fan can tell the difference. So, what memorable and important lessons could a picture of cartoon characters create for a pastor?
The voice of the Spirit is crucial.
I’m not talking about some revelation in addition to the Bible, but the Holy Spirit helping us understand, obey, and apply the Bible. Apart from the work of God’s Spirit to open hearts to God’s truth, we are helpless to understand it or communicate it. Exhibit A would be the disciples. The best teacher the world has ever known could not adequately communicate spiritual truths to His followers apart from the Holy Spirit revealing those truths. If anything of value happens when I share from God’s Word, it will be because of the Holy Spirit’s work to speak and open hearts.
I am simply a conduit of the work of God’s Spirit.
Can you imagine Bugs Bunny being stressed about his role in an episode? Or Foghorn Leghorn being worried about his lines? No, because the voice wasn’t dependent on them. Remembering that I am speechless without the Spirit helps me to rest. I am not the one who provides the effective words. He is.
Please don’t misunderstand. I labor to preach well. I want to be good at my craft of teaching the Bible in a way that people can understand and apply it. But at the end of the day, unless the Holy Spirit speaks, all my work is in vain. It’s a helpful reminder.
So, this cartoon drawing will stay above my desk to remind me—on the days when I feel like “it’s all about me”—that I’m just a character in God’s story. I don’t have to worry or be anxious. I can trust the Illustrator and Story Teller to work. And, I can bow my head and pray, remembering that if the Spirit doesn’t speak, I really am “speechless,” no matter how long I preach.